Leaves of Absence, Special Matriculation, Short-term Breaks


PREAMBLE: 

For a variety of reasons, students at the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) may need a break or leave of absence from the medical school curriculum. Beyond requesting an excused absence for a variety of reasons, students may request time away from medical school, up to one year at a time. The policies below outline the circumstances and processes for taking a Leave of Absence (Personal, Medical, Family, Scholarly Year), options for Special Matriculation Full-Time Student Status at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) (Scholarly Year, Combined Degree, Individualized Learning Plans including Deceleration/Remediation), and going on a Short-Term Break. 

The process for each option differs depending on the student’s situation. The summary and comparison chart may be used as a reference when deciding what type of time away best suits a student’s needs. 

There are three categories for time out from the curriculum, including a Leave of Absence, Special Matriculation Full-Time Student Status, and a Short-Term Break, all defined below.

These policies have been updated as of 2.15.2022

For an Easy Reference Chart, please click here.

Leaves of Absence

There are four types of leaves of absence:
  1. Personal
  2. Medical
  3. Family
  4. Scholarly Year Out Leave of Absence (for students wishing to pursue non-Penn research, a non-Penn fellowship, or a non-Penn degree)

Special Matriculation Full-Time Student Status

This is a situation where a student maintains full-time student status but is doing professional work outside of the defined MD curriculum at Penn. There are three types of special matriculation status options:
  1. Scholarly Year
  2. Combined Degree: MD/PhD or MD/Masters
  3. Special Matriculation for Individualized Learning Plan (ILP), including Deceleration or Remediation 

Short-Term Break

This is a period of 8 weeks or less with time borrowed from vacation time, not considered to be a leave of absence.

 

LEAVES OF ABSENCE: PERSONAL, MEDICAL, FAMILY, SCHOLARLY YEAR OUT

APPLICABLE TO ALL LEAVES OF ABSENCE (LOA):
  • All LOAs count as time away from school lasting more than 8 weeks and up to one year. Renewals may be possible and will be reviewed upon request by the Office of Student Affairs and may be referred to the Student Standards Committee for review and/or approval.
  • All students requesting time away from the medical school curriculum must first consult with their Advisory Dean, and then meet with and receive approval from the Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Wellness and/or the Associate Dean for Student Success and Professional Development. Students pursuing a Scholarly Year Out Leave of Absence must first seek approval with the Director of Medical Student Scholarship and Research. 
    • If enrolled in the MD/PhD program, the Associate Dean for Physician Scientist Training should be consulted.
    • A student who decides to take LOA must submit the required request form, meet with the Associate Dean(s) and receive, review, sign, and return a letter of leave PRIOR to beginning a leave.
  • Students are required to communicate their intent to return two months in advance, in writing, to the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Wellness and the Registrar and must meet any stipulations set in their LOA letter. 
    • Students who do not return at the end of their LOA or who do not comply with any stipulations listed in the official LOA letter may be administratively withdrawn from PSOM.
  • Students on a leave of absence are responsible for ensuring they are being included in academic lotteries for courses that will begin after their return. 

Student Status while on LOA (regardless of type):

  • Students will not have active student status. 
  • Students cannot participate in PSOM-related activities, including interest groups, affinity groups, Medical Student Government (MSG), and more; students will not receive listserv emails. 
  • Students cannot take NBME exams. 
  • Students may be able to work in PSOM, in non-student roles only, with a review of the circumstances and written permission from the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Wellness. 
  • Students are not covered for liability insurance.

Tuition and Fees while on LOA (regardless of type):

  • Students will not pay tuition or fees and are not eligible for loans or financial aid. 
  • 180 days after the start of the LOA, loans will be out of deferment and there is no future 180-day grace period. 
  • Students may consult with the Director of Financial Services for assistance and/or clarification.

Health Insurance while on LOA (regardless of type):

  • If students are covered by the Penn Student Insurance Plan (PSIP) for 6 months prior to the start date of their LOA, they are eligible for one year of Continuation Coverage and must apply through PSIP.

Student Standards Committee (SSC), Transcript, and Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE/Dean’s Letter):

  • SSC: Notified of all LOAs in a quarterly report.
  • Transcript and MSPE: 
    • All personal, medical, and family leaves of absence will be recorded on the transcript as “Leave History” with the dates of the LOA included. On the student’s MSPE, it will be recorded as “Leave of Absence” with the dates of the LOA included. 
    • A Scholarly Year Out LOA will be recorded on the transcript as “Research Year Certificate” with no dates. On the student’s MSPE, it will be recorded as “Scholarly Year Out Leave of Absence” with the dates of the LOA included and additional information may be provided about the location and project. 

 

PERSONAL LEAVE OF ABSENCE 

Examples include military service, other career opportunities, or pursuing an additional non-Penn degree that does not fit the Scholarly Year Out Leave of Absence option.

In addition to the process for all LOAs described above, students with academic and/or professionalism deficiencies in need of remediation must seek pre-approval of the Student Standards Committee (SSC) with support from the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Wellness. If approved, SSC may require stipulations in order for the student to return, which may include a plan for remediation, and SSC may request the student appear before the committee upon their return and prior to resuming the curriculum. SSC will also need to approve any personal LOA extended beyond one year and if a second personal LOA is requested during medical school. Any unsatisfactory course grades in place at the time of the personal LOA will become permanent if the LOA extends beyond the academic year.

 

MEDICAL LEAVE OF ABSENCE

Example: chronic illness, mental health diagnosis, etc.

In addition to the process for all LOAs described above, students must also provide documentation from a Penn Student Health Services provider, pre-approved PennMedicine provider, a CAPS healthcare provider, and/or an administrative psychiatric or medical evaluation. Any academic and/or professionalism deficiencies in need of remediation at the time of leave will be postponed until after the student returns. Depending on the nature of the deficiencies, SSC may require stipulations in order to return, which may include a plan for remediation and may request the student to appear before the committee.

Returning from Medical LOA

  • In addition to the process for returning from all LOAs described above, a “Fit-for-Duty” letter is required from the healthcare provider in Penn Student Health Services, a pre-approved PennMedicine provider, or a CAPS healthcare provider. 
  • The request to extend a medical LOA past one year requires approval from the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Wellness and a written recommendation from the healthcare provider.
  • If the medical LOA extends beyond an academic year, the student’s transcript will indicate “W” (withdrawal) from any pending or in-progress curricular elements, and any “U” (unsatisfactory) course grades will become permanent.

 

FAMILY LEAVE OF ABSENCE

Examples include childbirth, adoption, parental responsibilities, etc.

In addition to the process for all LOAs described above, any academic and/or professionalism deficiencies in need of remediation will be postponed until after the student returns. Students must discuss all outstanding remediations with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Wellness and may be required to seek approval upon their return from the Student Standards Committee (SSC) regarding their remediation plan, and SSC may require stipulations in order to return, which may include a plan for remediation and may request the student to appear before the committee. SSC will also need to approve any Family Leave extended beyond one year and must be informed if a second Family Leave is requested during medical school. 

 

SCHOLARLY YEAR OUT LEAVE OF ABSENCE

Examples include a fellowship not at Penn, a Scholarly Year mentored by non-Penn faculty, non-Penn fellowships, or research activities. An advanced degree at non-Penn institution will also be considered a Scholarly Year Out. 

Students will not pay tuition beyond the 8 required semesters, and during the Scholarly Year Out LOA, students will not pay administrative fees. 

Students must be in good academic standing and must not have any pending academic or professionalism remediations.

In order to gain approval for entry into the Match and graduation, students must have a plan to meet the graduation requirements including Clinical Skills Inventory (CSI) examination, a timeline for USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 results, and time for completion of all required curricular elements.

 

SPECIAL MATRICULATION FULL-TIME STUDENT STATUS:
SCHOLARLY YEAR; COMBINED DEGREE; INDIVIDUALIZED LEARNING PLANS (ILP) INCLUDING DECELERATION OR REMEDIATION

APPLICABLE TO ALL SPECIAL MATRICULATION FULL-TIME OPTIONS:

Student Status while on Special Matriculation:

  • Student status will remain full-time. 
  • Students may be eligible to work in PSOM (for ILP students, permission is required from the Associate Dean for Student Success and Professional Development) and may participate in PSOM-related activities including interest groups, affinity groups, Medical Student Government (MSG), and more. 
  • Students will remain on appropriate listservs for information and updates relevant to an MD student.
  • Students will have liability insurance coverage.

NBME Examinations while on Special Matriculation

  • Students pursuing a Scholarly Year or Combined Degree may be allowed to take NBME exams with permission from the Associate Dean for Student Success and Professional Development.
  • Students in special matriculation for ILPs including, deceleration, and/or remediation may be allowed to take NBME exams but must meet with the Associate Dean for Student Success and Professional Development for approval.

Tuition/Fees while on Special Matriculation:

  • Tuition and fees required are specific to matriculation type; see more details in each section below.
  • Prior year loans may be eligible for in-school deferment. 
  • Direct loans may be available to assist in covering tuition and fees, health insurance, and living expenses. Satisfactory Academic Progress may apply.
  • Students may consult with the Director of Financial Services for assistance and/or clarification.

Health Insurance while on Special Matriculation (regardless of type):

  • Full-time students are required to have health insurance, either through the Penn Student Insurance Plan (PSIP) or a private plan (documentation must be provided).

Student Standards Committee (SSC), Transcript, and Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE/Dean’s Letter):

Specific to matriculation type; see more details in each section below.

 

SCHOLARLY YEAR

Examples include a fellowship at Penn, a Research Year mentored by Penn faculty, non-Penn fellowships, or research activities IF students have a local Penn Mentor, continue to pay fees, and receive prior approval from the Director of Medical Student Scholarship and Research.

  • This is a status that grants full-time student status with a scholarly endeavor that fosters further development of the student towards professional goals. 
  • The duration of a Scholarly Year is typically one year. SSC will need to approve any Scholarly Year that extends beyond one year.
  • To begin the process a student must be in good standing with no coursework in need of remediation. Students must consult with their Advisory Dean and the Director of Medical Student Scholarship and Research.
    • Students must submit a scholarly year proposal and a signed mentor form, as well as complete the Arranged Activity form through the Registrar’s Office. 
    • Once a scholarly project has been approved, students must meet with their Advisory Dean and the Associate Dean for Student Success and Professional Development to schedule their Sub-Is, electives, remaining USMLE Step exams, Frontiers, and any additional remaining graduation requirements. 

Tuition and Fees during a Scholarly Year:

  • Students will not pay tuition beyond the 8 required semesters; however, during the Scholarly Year students will be responsible for administrative fees. 

Student Standards Committee (SSC), Transcript, and Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE/Dean’s Letter):

  • A request for a Scholarly Year does not need pre-approval by SSC, but SSC tracks all student promotion and progress through graduation. 
  • The Scholarly Year will be recorded on the student’s transcript as “Research Year Certificate” with no dates included and will be recorded in the MSPE as “Scholarly Year” with dates included and a descriptive statement of the student’s scholarly project.

 

COMBINED DEGREE at Penn: MD/MASTERS

Examples include a student pursuing an MD/MBA, MD/MTR, or other MD/combined degree at Penn

  • Students enrolled in the MD program and another degree program at Penn are enrolled in both schools and are considered full-time students at both schools. 
  • The duration of an MD/Masters program may vary, but typically the additional Masters degree requires an additional year of study. 
  • To begin the process students must consult their Advisory Dean and the Combined Degree Year Out (CDYO) Office. 
    • Once a student has been accepted into a Masters program, they must meet with their Advisory Dean and the Associate Dean for Student Success and Professional Development to schedule their Sub-Is, electives, remaining USMLE Step exams, Frontiers, and any additional remaining graduation requirements. 
  • As a dual degree student, any information relating to academic and/or professional deficiencies may be shared between administrators in both programs, as detailed in the policy Flow of Student Information: Between PSOM and the Office of Student Conduct at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Students needing remediation for academic and/or professionalism deficiencies are discouraged from transitioning to a Masters curriculum, and this must be discussed with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Wellness and may require SSC approval.

Tuition and Fees during Combined Degree:

  • Tuition and fees are program specific. The student is responsible for Masters degree tuition (grants and stipends possible) as defined by the program. Any MD scholarship will not apply to Masters tuition.

Student Standards Committee (SSC), Transcript, and Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE/Dean’s Letter):

  • Combined degree matriculation does not need pre-approval by SSC, unless there are pending remediations or professionalism deficiencies. SSC tracks all student promotion and progress through graduation. 
  • The dates of the time away from the medical school curriculum for the combined degree will be included on the student’s transcript and mentioned in the MSPE.

 

SPECIAL MATRICULATION FOR INDIVIDUALIZED LEARNING PLANS INCLUDING DECELERATION OR REMEDIATION

Examples include a student who is in need of an individualized learning plan (ILP) to learn a necessary skill for professional development or to complete an individualized program of study to enhance knowledge and skills. This status may be applied when multiple courses are in need of remediation or if it is necessary to develop a modified learning plan that allows a student more time to complete the curriculum. 

  • The duration of this status is variable but, in general, the time in this Special Matriculation status is counted toward Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP).
  • To begin the process students must consult the Associate Dean for Student Success and Professional Development. 
  • An ILP is required to account for full-time student status, and the ILP will be kept on file with the Registrar.

Tuition and Fees during Special Matriculation for ILP:

  • Students will not pay tuition beyond the 8 required semesters; however, they will be responsible for administrative fees for every semester of enrollment. 

Student Standards Committee (SSC), Transcript, and Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE/Dean’s Letter):

  • SSC will be notified and, in some cases, pre-approval may be needed. Students should consult with the Associate Dean for Student Success and Professional Development.
  • The dates of enrollment and the ILP will be reflected on the student’s transcript and in the MSPE in “Academic History” sections with the dates included.

 

SHORT-TERM BREAK

Examples include an unexpected, short-term medical emergency, illness, death in the family, or remediation of clerkship requirements

  • The duration of a short-term break is up to 8 weeks. 
  • To begin the process students must communicate with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Wellness.
    • Students in Modules 1 and 2 must make up any missed coursework and exams and may be required to take a Personal Leave of Absence if an entire course needs to be taken.
    • Students in Module 4, depending on the timing of the short-term break, must make up missed work and/or shifts, or postpone the entire clerkship at the discretion of the Clerkship Director(s) in consultation with the Associate Dean for Student Success and Professional Development.
    • A student who has an outstanding Module 4 failure (exam or clinical) may use a short-term break to remediate the failed component.
  • Typically, a short-term break will reduce the amount of vacation time during the curriculum’s flexible time, usually in the post-clerkship schedule.

Tuition and Fees:

  • Students will not pay tuition beyond the 8 required semesters; however, they will be responsible for administrative fees for every semester of enrollment. 

Student Standards Committee (SSC), Transcript, and Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE/Dean’s Letter):

  • SSC will not be notified unless additional/multiple (more than one) short-term breaks occur. 
  • The short-term break will not be mentioned on the student’s transcript or in the MSPE unless multiple (more than one) short-term breaks occur. This will be at the discretion of SSC. 

 

NOTE:

Students may transition from one type of leave or special matriculation to another with the assistance of the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Wellness. For example, a student who has been on family leave may seek approval to begin a scholarly project, therefore transitioning to full-time student status if approved and, in some cases, retaining a future grace period for loan repayment.