Alum Helps Establish Medical School's Honor Code
When the first-year students at Thomas Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia take the Hippocratic oath later this month, they also will take part in a plenary to discuss, and hopefully, ratify the medical school's first honor code. While a number of medical schools around the country have honor codes, Jefferson's may be one of a few that was written by its students.
Among the students behind this year-long effort were two Haverford graduates, Chris Coletti '00 and Seth Hollander â€˜96, now in their third and fourth years of studies at Jefferson. Hollander, in fact, was asked by the administration to take the lead on this project.“About a year ago, I gave a medical school friend a tour of Haverford,” says Hollander.“She was so impressed by the atmosphere of trust and respect. She saw the comment board, and students' personal belongings left unattended in the dining center lobby.” Hollander's friend conveyed her enthusiasm to officials at Jefferson, who later invited him to give a talk about Haverford's Honor Code before a committee of faculty, students and deans which oversees changes in the medical school's curriculum.
“He gave a very inspiring presentation,” recounts Jefferson associate dean, Karen Glaser, who, along with Hollander, co-chaired the professional task force which created the code. The school already had a professional code of conduct, but the challenge lay in establishing a greater sense of community that, among other things, was committed to supporting its members.“The professional conduct code was a list of rules and regulations. We were seeking a promise from the student body to embrace the standards of a community, to deal openly and honestly with each, and to trust in one another in both academic and non-academic situations,” explains Hollander. In much the same way that Haverford's Honor Code reflects a philosophy of conduct rather than a list of rules, Jefferson's code expresses what the medical school would like to create as a community, but without specific restrictions.
At the outset, Hollander included input from other students, including several who also had attended undergraduate institutions with honor codes. The final document was approved by over three-quarters of the student body and was well received by the faculty.“Seth is a very dynamic young man, and his leadership was terrific, particularly in the fact that he involved other students,” says Glaser.“There are aspects to medical education and training that make such an undertaking much more complex than what might be the experience of an undergraduate, residential college,” she adds,” but we're very proud of what our students accomplished through their own initiative. I think it makes the code that much more relevant.”