Faculty of Medicine Statement on Mistreatment

The Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry are committed to creating a learning and work environment conducive to optimal education, research, and clinical care. This is sustained by learners and faculty committing to the highest level of professional conduct in their communications and interactions in all University-related activities.

Why this webpage was created

From the Dean’s Task Force on Mistreatment report submitted by Dean Blye Frank, December 2013

The Task Force on Mistreatment in the Learning Environment was established in response to growing concern about harassment and mistreatment of medical students in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC). This concern is not unique to UBC, nor is it recent. Medical schools across North America have become increasingly aware of the mistreatment of medical students over the past twenty years, noting that mistreatment often goes unreported, either because students fear reprisal or because the means to report are not easily accessible.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are specific environments where individuals are participating in inappropriate behaviour, but that the behaviours are being ignored since students feel they should stay silent as their peers have in the past. As noted above, the culture of health care is hierarchical, with those higher up in the system wielding enormous power over learners.

WorkSafeBC defines bullying and harassment as including: any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated, but excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment (WorkSafeBC, 2013).

Learning cannot take place in an atmosphere that is characterized by disrespect, disruption, intimidation, or abuse.

The Task Force determined that the underlying issues regarding mistreatment in the learning environment include:

  • Students tend not to report mistreatment because they fear reprisal, they anticipate no meaningful response to their concerns, or they do not know how to report.
  • Health care staff choose not to speak up when they observe inappropriate or egregious behaviours.
  • Faculty and students may not appreciate the damaging effects of inappropriate or egregious behaviours 
in the learning environment.
  • The current culture promotes “blaming” rather than supporting and promoting positive changes in 
  • It is important to recognize that all of the Health Authorities in which students are taught have respectful workplace policies that clearly outline acceptable and unacceptable behaviours in their jurisdictions.