​Guidelines on Professionalism

Students at Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine are expected to demonstrate good judgment and a sense of responsibility, sensitivity, and compassion. These qualities are fundamental characteristics of ethical and professional dentists. The Student Honor Code and the Guidelines on Professionalism provide standards which are essential to ensuring a student’s suitability to practice dentistry.

Maintaining Honesty and Integrity

  • Students may not obtain, receive, use, or provide any assistance during an examination or other evaluative exercise from any source which is not authorized by the faculty. This shall include the use of electronic devices. Only released examination materials may be used for study or any other purpose.
  • Students may not present for evaluation any work or project which is not exclusively the work of the student(s) being evaluated.
  • Students may not willfully or recklessly misrepresent or report inaccurate data in any academic, patient care, or research situation.
  • Students may not plagiarize from any paper or presentation. College of Dental Medicine faculty will check for authenticity if plagiarism is suspected.

Respect and Collaboration

  • Students must interact with patients and members of the College of Dental Medicine community in a manner which is appropriate, professional, ethical, and in accordance with the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct. Patient neglect, abandonment, mistreatment, or any similar activities are considered serious ethical violations.
  • Patients at the College of Dental Medicine must be viewed as individuals with healthcare needs as opposed to vehicles for student promotion and graduation. Providers must make all efforts to respect patient 'wishes; to be informative, collaborative, and truthful in their interactions with patients; and to act in a manner that safeguards patients' health.
  • Students must not misappropriate or excessively use equipment/supplies/materials which are intended for the use of the class as a whole.
  • Students must not interfere with the performance of another student on an examination or formal exercise.

Professional Demeanor and Conduct

  • Students are expected to adhere to College of Dental Medicine dress code.
  • Students are expected to complete assignments on time.
  • Students are expected to attend scheduled lectures unless the course director has indicated that attendance is not mandatory.
  • Students are expected (when possible) to inform faculty in advance of planned absence.
  • Students are expected to arrive to class on time.
  • Students are expected to attend scheduled examinations. In the event that a student cannot attend an examination, the student must inform the Dean of Student Affairs. If a student is granted an excused absence from an examination, the Course Director will administer a make-up of the exam AFTER the regularly scheduled examination. The format of the make-up examination is decided by the Course Director.

Maintaining Patient Confidentiality

  • Students must maintain the security of confidential, sensitive, and protected patient information (digital and paper-based). Posting images or other patient information on social networking sites or anywhere on the internet is prohibited. Students are expected to be knowledgeable about and abide by HIPAA policies.
  • Only Columbia University email systems should be utilized for communication about patient and other educational matters. Auto-forward of Columbia University email to Gmail or other unapproved email systems is prohibited.
  • Portable devices such as laptops and USB drives, etc., used to store Protected Health Information (PHI) must be encrypted.
  • Students may access patient electronic medical/dental records only when directly involved in that patient’s care.

Conflict of Interest

  • Students may not accept gifts with more than nominal value, including cash or commodities, from commercial entities whose businesses are in any way relevant to their professional duties. The display of materials bearing commercial logos such as clocks, pens, books, and other promotional items in patient areas is unacceptable. Students are expected to recognize and report conflicts of interest and remove themselves from patient care, research, or educational effort should a conflict of interest arise. The Associate Dean for Students and Admissions provides oversight for conflicts of interest issues involving College of Dental Medicine students.

Conflict of Interest Policy on Education and Clinical Care for Faculty and Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center

Romantic Involvement

  • Students may not engage in romantic involvement with patients or their family members while serving on a patient’s healthcare team.
  • It is the policy of Columbia University that no faculty member shall have a consensual romantic or sexual relationship with a student over whom he or she exercises academic or professional authority. It is also the policy of the University that no faculty member shall exercise academic or professional authority over any student with whom he or she has or previously has had a consensual romantic or sexual relationship. This policy applies to all officers of instruction, research, and the libraries, including students with appointments as student officers of instruction and research and graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants. The use of the term “faculty” in the policy statement is not meant to restrict the policy’s application in any way but to underscore its special relevance to the faculty because of the roles they play in the education and development of the University’s students.
  • It is the policy of Columbia University that no staff member should participate in supervision, employment actions, evaluation, advising, or mentoring of any Columbia University student with whom that staff member has or has had a consensual romantic or sexual relationship, except in unusual circumstances, where explicit authorization has been obtained from the Vice President of Human Resources in consultation with Office of the General Counsel.

More information can be found by visiting Columbia University's page on Consensual Romantic and Sexual Relationships.


  • It is a violation of these guidelines to refuse to participate in the care of a patient based on race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, age, marital status, or sexual preference. It is unethical to refuse to participate in the care of a patient solely because of medical risk or perceived risk to the student. A pregnant student is allowed to abstain from clinical activities that are prohibited by the student’s medical provider.
  • Columbia University is committed to providing a learning, living, and working environment free from discrimination and harassment and to fostering a nurturing and vibrant community founded upon the fundamental dignity and worth of all of its members. The University does not tolerate discrimination or harassment on the basis of membership in a Protected Class, and it provides students who believe that they have been the subject of discrimination or harassment with mechanisms for seeking redress. Nothing in this policy shall abridge academic freedom or the University’s educational mission. All members of the University community are expected to adhere to the applicable policies, to cooperate with the procedures for responding to complaints of discrimination and harassment, and to report conduct or behavior they believe to be in violation of these policies to EOAA. Management and supervisory personnel have a duty to act; they are responsible for taking reasonable and necessary action to prevent discrimination and harassment and for responding promptly and thoroughly to any such claims. University officers who learn of an allegation of gender-based misconduct, discrimination, or harassment have a duty to report the allegation to EOAA or Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct. All students are protected from retaliation for filing a complaint or assisting in an investigation under these policies. Appropriate disciplinary action may be taken against any student or employee who violates these policies.

Substance Abuse

  • Using alcohol or drugs in a manner that could compromise patient care is forbidden. It is also the responsibility of every student to protect the public from an impaired colleague and to assist a colleague whose capability is impaired because of ill health. Students are obligated to report persons of the health care team whose behavior exhibits impairment or lack of professional conduct, competence, or who engage in fraud or deception. Such reports must conform to established institutional policies
  • Columbia University recognizes the illegality and danger of drug abuse and, accordingly, strictly prohibits the possession, use, manufacture, or distribution of illicit drugs on University premises or as part of any University activity.
  • Columbia affiliates (students and employees) who violate the University's policies concerning illicit drugs will face discipline through their schools or administrative units, up to and including expulsion or termination of employment, and may also include the requirement of completing an appropriate rehabilitation program. Moreover, all students and employees should be aware that, in addition to University sanctions, they may be subject to criminal prosecution under federal and state laws that specify severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment, for drug-related criminal offenses. The seriousness of these crimes and the penalties imposed upon conviction usually depend upon the individual drug and amount involved in the crime.

Drug Testing Policy

  • Columbia University Medical Center is committed to assisting members of its community in facing the challenges associated with alcohol abuse and illicit drug use. The drug testing policy provides an opportunity for early identification and intervention before the consequences of such abuse adversely impacts a student’s health, professional growth, and patient care. Early intervention also provides for successful treatment without the involvement of formal disciplinary action or other sanctioning.
  • Health care providers are entrusted with the health, safety, and welfare of patients; have access to confidential and sensitive information; and operate in settings that require the exercise of good judgment and ethical behavior. Thus, assessment of a student’s suitability to function in a clinical setting is imperative to promote integrity in health care services.
  • Clinical facilities are increasingly required by the accreditation agency, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (TJC), to provide a drug screening for security purposes on individuals who supervise care, render treatment, and provide services within the facility.
  • Clinical rotations are an essential element in certain degree programs’ curricula. Increasingly these rotations require drug screening for student participation at their site. Students with a positive drug screen may be barred from certain rotations and thus are unable to fulfill degree program requirements. Identification of such students prior to clinical rotations will enable appropriate assessment and indicated treatment and follow-up.
  • NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and CUMC require drug screening of all employees. It is appropriate for clinical students to meet the same standards for the reasons stated above.
  • Preclinical drug testing is required of all students in the clinical schools at CUMC. Information about drug testing at CUMC can be found at the Student Health Services.