Technical Standards for MD Students

The MD degree is a broad undifferentiated degree representing a general knowledge of medicine and the related multi-faceted skills set required to practice medicine. Therefore, those who complete the MD program must possess certain essential abilities and characteristics, knowledge and skills, to function in a vast array of clinical situations and provide wide-ranging patient care. Providing the necessary level of patient care includes a broad combination of physical, cognitive, emotional, and interpersonal skills and characteristics. These standards, set forth in more detail below, must be met throughout medical school in order to successfully progress through the medical school curriculum and graduate. As they are essential elements to completing a MD degree, all candidates for a degree must be able to complete the entire course of study and participate fully in all aspects of medical training, with or without reasonable accommodation.

Candidates will be evaluated on a case-by-case individualized basis regarding their eligibility for admission, a process that examines and values all of the skills, attitudes, and attributes deemed necessary to safely and successfully complete the MD program. All candidates for admission, both those with and without disabilities, are expected to be competitive with others in the applicant pool with respect to academic, personal, and extracurricular achievements. Nothing in these technical standards is meant to deter the application or participation of any student who might be able to complete the requirements of the MD curriculum with reasonable accommodations. In accordance with Columbia’s policies which, in turn, embody applicable federal, state, and local laws (e.g., the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act), the Medical School does not discriminate in admissions or educational programs against any individual on the basis of his/her disability or handicap. No otherwise qualified individual with a disability/handicap will be excluded from admission. However, the use of an intermediary that would, in effect, require a student to rely on another individual’s power of observation and/or communication is not considered a reasonable accommodation. Prospective and admitted students should be referred with questions to the Office of Disability Services (ODS) and the admissions committee makes the determination based on ODS’s recommendation. Current students who become disabled should be referred with questions to ODS and a committee of the vice dean for education, associate dean for student affairs, support & services, senior associate dean for curricular affairs and the senior associate dean for admissions makes the determination based on ODS’s recommendation.

Definition of technical standards is required for the accreditation of U.S. medical schools by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). The following abilities and characteristics are defined as technical standards, and are requirements for admission, retention, promotion, and graduation.

Technical Standards

I. Observation:

  • Observe demonstrations and participate in scientific experiments, including but not limited to activities such as: dissecting cadavers; examining specimens in anatomy, pathology, and neuroanatomy laboratories; microscopic studying of microorganisms and tissues (both in normal and pathological states); review of diagnostic images and information;
  • Accurately observe patients both directly and through indirect methods (at a distance and close at hand) and to process and assess their findings;
  • Obtain and analyze medical history;
  • Perform a full and complete physical examination of patients and subjects in order to integrate their findings with observations to develop, explain, and carry out appropriate diagnostic and treatment plans;
  • Requires the use of the sense of vision and somatic sensation and is enhanced by the functional use of the sense of smell.

II. Communication:

Communicate efficiently, effectively, and accurately with patients, their families, and other members of the healthcare team;

  • Obtain medical history in a timely fashion;
  • Perceive and interpret non-verbal communications, including facial expression, body language, and affect;
  • Communicate effectively and sensitively with patients and their families, establishing therapeutic relationships;
  • Record information accurately and clearly;
  • Communicate efficiently, effectively, and accurately in English with other healthcare professionals in a variety of patient and clinical settings.

III. Motor:

  • Possess the capacity to perform physical examination (e.g., eliciting information from patients via palpation, auscultation, and percussion), as well as successfully carry out diagnostic maneuvers;
  • Respond to emergency situations in a timely fashion to provide general emergency care;
  • Execute movements reasonably required to provide general medical care and emergency treatment to patients. These skills require coordination of gross and fine motor movements, equilibrium, and sensation;
  • Manipulate equipment and instruments to perform basic laboratory tests and procedures as required to attain curricular goals. (e.g., needles, stethoscope, ophthalmoscope, tongue blades, intravenous equipment, scalpel);
  • Adhere to universal precaution measures and meet safety standards applicable to inpatient and outpatient settings and other clinical activities.

IV. Intellectual/Conceptual, Integrative, and Quantitative Abilities:

  • Possess sufficient cognitive (mental) abilities and effective learning techniques to obtain, collect, memorize, analyze, integrate, process, and apply the volume of detailed and complex information presented by the curriculum;
  • Learn through a variety of methods including, but not limited to, lectures; alternative classroom instruction; demonstrations; hands on experiences; small group, team, and collaborative discussions and efforts; individual study (including in clinical settings); preparation and presentation of reports; use of technology;
  • Perform calculations necessary to solve quantitative problems as required by the curriculum;
  • Apply knowledge and reasoning to solve problems and make decisions as outlined by the curriculum;
  • Recognize, comprehend, and draw conclusions about three dimensional spatial relationships of structures and logical sequential relationships among events;
  • Formulate and test hypotheses that enable effective and timely problem-solving in diagnosis and treatment of patients in a variety of settings and clinical modalities;
  • Remain awake and alert.

V. Behavioral, Emotional, and Social Attributes

  • Possess the emotional stability and maturity to fully apply his/her intellectual skill, exercise good judgment, and to complete all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients;
  • Develop a mature, sensitive and effective relationship with patients and colleagues;
  • Tolerate the physical, mental and emotional stress and long work hours experienced during training and patient care;
  • Possess qualities of adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to function in the face of uncertainty;
  • Form a compassionate relationship with his/her patients while maintaining appropriate boundaries for a professional relationship;
  • Behave in a trustworthy and ethical and moral manner consistent with professional values and standards;
  • Exhibit sufficient interpersonal skills, knowledge and attitudes to interact positively and sensitively with people from all parts of society, ethnic backgrounds, and belief systems;
  • Cooperate with others and work collaboratively as a team member.