What is the learning environment?

Throughout medical school, medical students learn in a variety of environments such as classrooms, small groups, testing sites, clinical skills workshops, primary care practicums, hospitals, and clinics. In addition to learning in a wide array of settings, learning takes place from a variety of teachers, including faculty, lecturers, instructors, physicians, residents, fellows, and fellow classmates. Regardless of the environment where a student is learning or who they are learning from, a learning environment should be physically safe, psychologically secure, beneficial to the student, and with an overall sense of encouragement for the student’s learning. Additionally, evaluation of the learner should be fair, impartial, objective, and unbiased.

Learn more here: Introduction to the Learning Environment module

Mistreatment in the learning environment

Mistreatment of students by faculty, staff or peers is prohibited. This includes incidents of humiliation, harassment or discrimination based on a student’s sex, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age, or the use of grading and assessment in a punitive manner.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) defines mistreatment as “Mistreatment arises when behavior shows disrespect for dignity of others and unreasonably interferes with the learning process. It can take the form of physical punishment, sexual harassment, psychological cruelty, and discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, or sexual orientation.” Click here to read the UWSOM Student Mistreatment Policy.

Examples of mistreatment can be remembered using the MISTREAT acronym:

Malicious intent
Intimidation on purpose
Sexual harassment
Threatening verbal of physical behavior
Racism or discrimination
Excessive or unrealistic expectations
Abusive favors
Trading for grades

The list above is not comprehensive, and we invite students to share any serious concern about the learning environment using any of the methods outlined on this page.

Director of the Learning Environment

The Director of the Learning Environment is the point person for any student with a concern about their learning environment or about any mistreatment experienced or witnessed.

The Director of the Learning Environment is Melinda Frank, and she can be reached by email at mmfrank@uw.edu or by phone at 206.616.1816. Students may make an appointment to meet with Melinda in person, by phone, or via Zoom directly or using this tool. Melinda’s office is located in the A-300 suite. All UWSOM students, regardless of their year in the curriculum and regardless of where they are physically located, may contact the Director of the Learning Environment at any time.


Reporting Mistreatment or a Serious Concern

If a student’s safety or another individual’s safety is at risk (physical or sexual assault, impaired physician, or any egregious situation), first call 9-1-1, visit the emergency room, or take other actions appropriate to the situation. Then, once safe, contact Dr. Maestas, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, at 206.685.9076 or via email (maestas@uw.edu).

Students who wish to report mistreatment or a serious concern that doesn’t require immediate response are encouraged to use the Learning Environment Feedback Tool by clicking on the button below. In the tool, you will be able to provide a description of your concern and indicate your follow-up preference and how you would like your feedback shared. You will have the option of reporting completely anonymously and indicating how you want your identity and the identity of anyone else involved in the situation to be shared.

What happens with the feedback I submit?

We take your feedback very seriously and will take appropriate steps to address your concerns. The Director of the Learning Environment will be the person who receives submissions and will handle each submission with the utmost confidentiality, ensuring that your identity is safeguarded throughout the entire response process. Each student will have the opportunity to discuss their concern with the Learning Environment Director further if desired. The concern is reviewed with a small group of deans from Curriculum, Student Affairs, and The Colleges, and a determination is made about the severity of the concern, which determines the appropriate follow up with the clerkship and faculty. Interventions could include feedback about the behavior, remediation, or removal from clinical teaching.

Could giving feedback negatively affect my grade?

No. The clerkship director, faculty, or other UW affiliated individuals will not be contacted until your grade has been finalized. The only exception to this is if we believe you or another individual is in imminent danger, and if this is the case, we will contact you before proceeding.

Other avenues to report mistreatment

If a student wishes to make a formal report to an entity that is external to the School of Medicine, they may contact the University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office (UCIRO) or a UW Title IX Coordinator. Click here to learn more about these resources.

Students may also report to:

Dr. Raye Maestas, Associate Dean for Student Affairs
Confidential voicemail: 206.685.9076; maestas@uw.edu

Any other dean at UWSOM, including a Foundations or clinical dean, can also receive your report.

Other people to talk to about concerns

Students may choose to discuss their concerns with any of the following people to determine their most appropriate course of action: College mentor, counselors, honor council members, staff members, Center for Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion staff, or to the UW Office of the Ombud. Note that while these resources can assist students in choosing a course of action, talking with them is not equivalent to filing a report.

What are the protections for me against retaliation?

Students of the University of Washington are always protected under UW Executive Order No. 31, regardless of where they might be geographically in the 5-state WWAMI region. This order:

“Prohibits discrimination or harassment against a member of the University community because of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, citizenship, sex, pregnancy, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, disability, or veteran status…[and also] Prohibits retaliation against any individual who reports concerns regarding discrimination or harassment, or who cooperates with or participates in any investigation of allegations of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation under this policy, or any individual who is perceived to have engaged in any of these actions.”

More information

Annual Report of the Learning Environment (clinical phase) 2017-2018 (UW NetID required)