Attendance and Absence Policies

Following are our policies on attendance and absence for the Fundamentals Curriculum and the Clinical Curriculum.

Policy for the Fundamentals Curriculum

Students are required to attend all small group sessions, unrecorded lectures and teaching sessions featuring patients (see below). Students are strongly encouraged to attend all other lectures.

Students may miss a required class due to acute illness, a personal crisis (e.g., death in the family), a first-author presentation at a scientific conference or a religious observance as described in the Columbia University Regulation on Religious Holidays. Please refer to 'Religious Observance Scheduling' Policy below for more guidance. In all such cases, students must email the Course Director and copy Students should not schedule personal events that would result in an absence from a required curricular event. For any situation that falls outside of these conditions, students should email the course director and copy

Make-up examinations for tests missed due to illness or personal crisis may be given at the discretion of the course director at any time during the academic year without the approval of the Fundamentals Faculty Committee.

Students may be required to make up any missed required material. If there is concern that absences are affecting the student’s academic performance or that absences represent a breach in professional conduct, the course director may refer the student for review with the Fundamentals Faculty Committee.

Approved by Fundamentals Subcommittee 8/8/13

Approved by Curriculum and Education Policy Committee 8/23/13

Required Sessions in the Fundamentals Curriculum:

  • All small group sessions
  • Team-Based Learning and Just-in-Time Teaching Sessions
  • Foundations of Clinical Medicine, the Body in Health and in Disease, and Psychiatric Medicine - "Patient as Professor" and sessions with patient information
  • Scheduled sessions in the Simulation Center
  • Others to be determined

Policy for the Clinical Curriculum

On clerkships, students are required to be present every weekday and on weekends if on call or scheduled for clinical duties. On electives, students must be present from the first to the last day of the calendar month, with more variable hours expected (including possible weekend and overnight work) and flexibility for away elective scheduling at the discretion of the course director.

Students may be absent for acute illness, a personal crisis (e.g., death in the family), a first-author presentation at a scientific conference or a religious observance as described in the Columbia University Regulation on Religious Holidays.  Please refer to 'Religious Observance Scheduling' Policy below for more guidance. As soon as they are able, students must notify the NewYork-Presbyterian clerkship or elective director and copy (for clerkships) or (for electives). Approval for all absences is at the discretion of the clerkship or course director.

While working in clinical settings, it can be challenging to balance self-care with professional duties. To help maintain their self-care, students who need accommodations to attend medical appointments should notify the Office of Education at (for clerkships) or (for electives). Students do not need to disclose their specific medical need. The Office of Education will provide a list of students needing accommodations to clerkship and elective directors without reference to students’ specific medical need. Students are also asked to alert clerkship and elective directors of their accommodation at least four weeks prior to the start of the clerkship or elective.

Some Clerkship and Elective Directors will also allow a brief absence for a wedding in which the student plays a significant role or a graduation of a close family member, but they are not obligated to do so. In all such cases, students must email the NYP Clerkship or Elective Director and copy the Office of Education ( or well in advance. If approved, students should advise site directors, attendings, preceptors and house staff of the dates of anticipated absences well in advance so that appropriate arrangements for on-call scheduling, patient care, and makeups can be made.

Schedules on clinical rotations including clerkships and electives are governed largely by the patient care duties of students’ teams. In the Major Clinical Year, which excludes Christmas and New Year's, vacations are detailed on students' individual rotation schedules. The only protected time for holidays in the Major Clinical Year is Thanksgiving day and the Friday following Thanksgiving. Holiday schedules during electives are determined by the patient care needs of the specific elective. Students should direct questions about holiday coverage to their clerkship/elective directors.

When required, arrangements for make up or repetition of the clerkship or elective will be at the discretion of the clerkship or course director. If students miss 20% or more of a clerkship (e.g., five or more days for five-week clerkships, one or more days for one-week clerkships) or four or more days of an elective, they will receive an incomplete for the clerkship or elective and be required to make up the missed time and possibly the entire course.

Revised by MCY Subcommittee 12/17/14, edited for clarity 7/6/17

Approved by Curriculum and Education Policy Committee 12/19/14


Religious Observation Scheduling


Implement a policy that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion, including observance of religious holidays.


Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons (VP&S) is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Observance of religious holidays and daily practices such as prayer may impact a student's schedule of preclinical coursework and clinical rotations and assessments. To be respectful of all religious cultures, the VP&S policy is to support students’ religious practices, including students who wish to observe religious holidays that are not also official university holidays, while minimizing disruption to the delivery of patient care.

Given the various religious faiths( some examples found here: within VP&S and in keeping with the nonsectarian nature of the Medical School, this guideline is intended to apply equitably to all religious groups and to provide opportunities to all to meet their religious observations.


A. Preclinical Courses

1. Course Directors are expected to avoid required coursework that conflicts with religious holidays as much as possible. When scheduling conflicts prove unavoidable, instructors are expected to find alternative means by which students can satisfy missed academic requirements.

2. Students are required to inform their Course Directors of their plans to observe a religious holiday at the beginning of the semester, so that there is plenty of time to plan for any necessary alternative arrangements. It is important for students to understand that no matter what absences might be accommodated, they will still be responsible for all course requirements, which may include in-class participation or other assignments that will need to be made up in some alternative way.

3. If a suitable arrangement cannot be worked out between the student and the Course Director, they should consult their Advisory Dean or the Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs.

B. Clinical Rotations

Students on clinical rotations may request an absence to observe a religious holiday from their clerkship director. Details of the absence will be worked out directly between the student and the clerkship director on an individual basis. Modifications to schedules (including breaks for prayer), will be supported as long as these requests do not alter the fundamental requirements of the clinical rotation, require substantial program modification, or pose safety risks to patients. Allotted non-work days may need to be used to allow for schedule adjustments or to make up missed time that results from religious holidays or other religious-related absences. Students should make such requests of the clinical rotation director as soon as possible after the student’s clinical rotation schedule is known or, ideally 2 weeks prior to the beginning of a course or clerkship/elective block or month.

C. Assessment Schedule

1. It is the policy of VP&S that a course or clerkship director will make a reasonable attempt to accommodate students’ needs in the case of serious incompatibility between a student's religious creed and a scheduled assessment activity.

2. Arrangements for an alternative assessment date will be worked out directly and on an individual basis between the student and the relevant course or clerkship director. It may not be possible to reschedule some assessments, such as laboratory practical examinations and standardized patient exams.

3. Students should make such requests of the course/clerkship director as soon as possible after a conflicting examination date is announced or, at the latest, at the beginning of a course/clerkship.

4. The clerkship director or site director is responsible for communicating the agreed-upon accommodation(s) to the relevant clinical attending/team, to ensure that the clinical attending/team understands the policy and that the student has done due diligence in working out the accommodation(s) with the course leadership.

Approved by Curriculum and Education Policy Committee 4/29/2022