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FSU Medical School Draws Accreditation 'Warning' After ' Very Unpleasant' April Site Visit

Florida State University’s medical school has received a warning from the organization responsible for accrediting medical schools across the United States and Canada.

The warning said the FSU College of Medicine has failed to meet standards that, if not corrected within the next one to two years, could “seriously compromise the ability of the school to conduct the educational program.”

College of Medicine Dean John Fogarty said that a Liaison Committee on Medical Education site team visited the school in April. University President John Thrasher was advised of the decision to issue a warning in an Oct. 25 letter.

Fogarty said the College of Medicine is working to ensure that it addresses the site team’s concerns before the team comes back in spring 2020.

“My expectation is over the next year they’ll like us again,” Fogarty told The News Service of Florida on Friday.

“What we are able to say to the students is that we are fully accredited and that the LCME has some findings that we need to work on,” Fogarty said. “And we’ll get that done. And it will have no impact on their education. It should have no impact on anyone interested in coming here.”

The LCME is responsible for the accreditation of educational programs leading to medical doctor degrees in the United States and Canada.

Fogarty said that before the LCME’s April visit, the College of Medicine spent 18 months reviewing the 96 LCME standards, identifying the program’s strengths and weaknesses. More than 400 pages of data were submitted to the accrediting organization in advance of the site team’s visit.

“Given how well we did in 2011 with almost no findings, we were shocked that the visit team did not see or recognize how good we are and how far we have continued to advance since the last visit,” Fogarty said.   

LCME can make six decisions during the accreditation process. “Warning” is one of four that is considered “severe,” according to the Oct. 25 letter. 

A warning occurs when the accrediting body finds one or more areas of noncompliance with standards, according to the organization’s website. If left unaddressed, those deficiencies could “seriously compromise the ability of the school to conduct the educational program,” according to the website.

Fogarty described the April site visit as “very unpleasant.”

“We felt that team did not really understand us, did not understand our model and made a number of significant findings about our model that we felt were inaccurate and wrong,” Fogarty said.

The LCME says on its website that findings are not public and don’t need to be disclosed. While Fogarty shared the Oct. 25 letter, he told The News Service of Florida “it is clear” that the specific findings made by the site team were not a public record.

But Fogarty said some findings were “picky,” such as not including on the school’s website the qualifications students need to meet to be enrolled in the College of Medicine. Another “picky” finding centered on bylaws, which Fogarty said have been corrected.

Another three or four findings, Fogarty contended, stemmed from a misunderstanding about how the medical school program operates, the result of the site team not visiting the school’s six regional campuses.

With backing from powerful state politicians, the College of Medicine was created by the Legislature in 2000 and designed as a community-based medical school. Unlike most schools, its students don’t train in large teaching hospitals anchored to the school.

The first two years of the program are spent on the Tallahassee campus, where students enroll in required courses. After that, students are assigned to one of six regional campuses across the state where they do clinical training, partnering with physicians.

Fogarty said the site team visited the regional campuses in 2011. But during this year’s review, faculty and students were brought to Tallahassee to meet with the site team, a move Fogarty said was “an error.”

“It’s very, very different from most traditional medical schools where they spend their time in a big box, in an academic medical center and hospital rotations,” he said. 

One area where the university fell short was the interaction of students with hospital residents. But Fogarty said that FSU medical students, “90 percent of the time” are working with board-certified physicians in doctors’ offices.

Another standard cited by the LCME team, Fogarty said, dealt with medical conditions the students are required to be exposed to during training and the level of care they provide while in school.

“We are all over that, but they just didn’t get it,” Fogarty said.

Alan Levine, a hospital executive and member of the state university system’s Board of Governors, had not seen the LCME’s findings.

Generally, though, he said the accreditation process is meant to be helpful. And while programs “hate” when they come up short, Levine said, the findings are meant to give colleges and universities “a road map of what needs to be worked on.”

“FSU has been at this for a while,” Levine said. “They have a good medical school, and I think they’ll address it. I’d be more concerned if they go through another cycle and they don’t address the issues.”