September 07, 2010

Professional Responsibility Day set for Sept. 11

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- First-year law and medical school students will confront critical professional and ethical issues later this week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Using a variety of scenarios, the 15th annual Professional Responsibility Day will introduce first-year students in the law school, the SIU School of Medicine, and SIUC’s MEDPREP and Physician Assistant programs to issues they will likely encounter during their professional careers.

The program begins at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 11, in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building at the SIU School of Law.

About 270 students will participate this year. MEDPREP helps eligible students prepare for careers in medicine, dentistry or other health-related fields.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover some of the small group discussions that start at 10:15 a.m. in various classrooms, but they should be unobtrusive. Students and faculty will be available for interviews at noon. For more information, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

Law school Dean Cynthia L. Fountaine, Ross Silverman, professor and chair of the Department of Medical Humanities in the medical school, Dr. Kevin Dorsey, dean and provost of the medical school, and W. Eugene Basanta, the Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law, will deliver opening remarks.

“Exposing students to the professionalism expectations and responsibilities of the legal profession early in their legal education is very important in helping students develop into ethical lawyers,” Fountaine said. “Our professionalism program, which includes both law and medical students, is an innovative way to enable students to begin thinking about these issues and to recognize that all professionals have common ethical considerations.”

The importance of professionalism and ethics is regularly emphasized in students’ classes, including before classes began last month.

When discussing their burgeoning legal careers at new-student orientation, Fountaine told the 144 law students the gathering marked the first day of their career in the legal profession. She told students that they would start developing their professional reputation “today, not in three or four years from now, but today.” She reminded the students that classmates, teachers, administrators, and the legal community “will begin to develop impressions of you.”

“The reputation you develop for yourself while you are here in law school will follow you into practice,” Fountaine told students.

During Professional Responsibility Day, students will break into small groups to discuss various scenarios. The scenarios, with the help of law school and medical school faculty, focus on a variety of topics, including patients’ rights, confidentiality, and how physicians and attorneys respond to patients or clients when there are mistakes. The exercises allow students to recognize and talk about their own views on the issues as a beginning professional student and how those views might adversely affect others, Basanta said.

“We want to develop in them a sense of what it means to be a professional and of issues that all professionals whether physicians or attorneys face in their practices,” Basanta said.

Surveys from participating students the past two years show a “great majority” of students like the program and see the benefit of participating in the event, he said.

“This does have an impact on their views and their understanding of ethics in their profession and their colleagues’ profession,” Basanta said.

Basanta said he believes the students who participate will be better attorneys and physicians due to involvement in this program and other activities incorporated into the law school’s course, “Professionalism and the Law.”