As an entity of the U.S. Government, the Hébert School is governed by a range of federal laws and regulations, U.S. Department of Defense instructions and policies promulgated by the President of the Uniformed Services University.
In addition to this legal, regulatory and policy framework, we hold ourselves to an ethical framework as well. The School’s leadership embraces four values that guide our decisions and actions on a daily basis. Three of them appear, in one form or the other, in the creeds of the services that sustain our University. The fourth is an essential quality of any institution of higher learning.
Military culture is built on respect. Consistent with this value, we expect our senior educators, supervisors and superior officers in the Hébert School of Medicine to treat their medical and graduate students, staff and subordinate faculty with respect. Effective leaders know how to bring out the best in their personnel without resorting to coercion or threats. Those privileged to hold positions of authority must never use their power over others to demean, harass or exploit.
Respect is also a two-way street. In the School of Medicine, students, staff and faculty colleagues should always give their best. The SoM thrives when everyone respects the mission and actively works to advance it. Respectful team members not only shoulder their responsibilities; they look for opportunities to help each other. Respectful researchers work collegially across centers, departments, disciplines and schools to maximize the impact of the University’s equipment, laboratory space, research funding and personnel.
The relationship between healthcare providers and their patients is built on respect. Patients respect our training and preparation; that’s why they put their bodies, their deepest secrets, their health and sometimes their very lives in our hands. We must respect the trust they place in us by doing our utmost to acquire and sustain the knowledge, skills and experience required to meet their needs. Likewise, we must always remember that we work for them, not the other way around. This means that we respect our patient’s time, their dignity and, most importantly, their wishes. These concerns always matter, but they are particularly important near the end of life.
Last but not least, the students, staff and faculty of the Hébert School of Medicine respect diversity — a quality that has defined the United States since its founding 240 years ago and continues to energize our society. Because the U.S. military is diverse, it is more dynamic, resilient, adaptive and effective than it would otherwise be. Here at “America’s Medical School” we aspire to reflect the diversity and creativity of the nation we serve. That’s why we seek students, staff and faculty who have diverse viewpoints and life experiences, come from different service and occupational backgrounds, hail from different parts of the country, follow different faith traditions, and represent different racial, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic groups. Given the global reach of our School, respect for diversity also helps us achieve our mission. It is not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do.
Honor and integrity are explicitly embodied in the creeds of the uniformed services that support our University. Every endeavor in the School of Medicine, from the study of molecular biology to the practice of global heath, rests on a foundation of integrity. Our patients expect us to be honest with them; so do our classmates, professors and colleagues. If any of us compromise our integrity, we compromise everything for which the SoM stands. That’s why we are always truthful; whether this involves reporting the results of an experiment, taking a closed book on-line quiz, admitting we forgot to check a lab result before morning rounds, or breaking bad news to a patient.
Our commitment to integrity is embodied in the School’s honor code — “We don’t lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do.” All of us in the Hébert School of Medicine are expected to adhere to this standard, whether we are first-year students, staff members, a brand-new assistant professors or long-serving tenured members of the faculty. In universities like ours, academic success is often measured in terms of publications. The phrase “publish or perish” is widely recognized in academia. For this reason, plagiarism — the theft of another person’s writing or ideas—is viewed as seriously as the theft of money or property. In many respects, it is equivalent to simultaneously lying, cheating and stealing. If a member of our community violates the School’s Honor Code they will be held accountable, irrespective of their position, rank, tenure or academic status. Equal treatment is not only a matter of fairness, it’s a measure of our institutional integrity.
The Hébert School of Medicine is committed to ensuring that all of our students, faculty, staff, contractors and campus guests are safe from physical harm, threats and other behavior intended to coerce, demean or intimidate members of our campus community. All of us have a responsibility to create and sustain a culture of safety on campus. Just as military personnel look out for each other down range, we must look out for each other on campus and throughout our national network of affiliated MTFs. If you spot a potential threat to safety, witness hostile or inappropriate behavior, or overhear overtly racist, sexist or bigoted remarks, you should promptly report it to School leadership. Federal Law provides protections from retaliation for those who step forward in good faith to express concern about campus safety.
Those of us in leadership positions, including the dean and dean’s staff, department chairs, center directors and class officers, have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the personnel who work in their department, unit, or area of responsibility. In addition to complying with appropriate laws and policies, we expect our supervisors to be vigilant, so potential problems are swiftly identified and addressed.
In academic environments like ours, intellectual safety is equally important. Institutions dedicated to scientific inquiry should encourage skeptical analysis of untested assumptions and urge its students and faculty members to challenge dogma. A commitment to safety requires us to protect one another from unintended errors as well. Outside of academic exams, if you believe your classmate, lab colleague, house officer or teacher is about to reach an erroneous conclusion or make a procedural or methodological error, you should respectfully ask them to explain their reasoning. Whether you are ultimately proven right or wrong, you should not be criticized.
Speaking up is particularly important in clinical settings, where patient safety must always come first. This concept is enshrined in the well-known Latin phrase: Primum non nocere, "First, do no harm.” Those we care for: ill and injured warriors, military family members and retirees count on us to get them well while doing everything in our power to safeguard them from preventable medical errors. That’s why USU is committed to helping the MHS become a high reliability organization (HRO). When medical professionals, including students, observe an unsafe clinical practice, a breach in proper technique or believe in good faith that a member of their team (including their resident or attending) is about to make a medical error, they are obliged to speak up. This is an important way to protect patients from medical error.
“America’s Medical School,” is committed to excellence in everything we do. Our mission statement makes this clear:
“The F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine is the Nation's federal school of medicine and is committed to excellence in military medicine and public health during periods of peace and war. We provide the Nation with health professionals dedicated to career service in the Department of Defense and the United States Public Health Service and with scientists who serve the common good. We serve the uniformed services and the Nation as a premier school of medicine with a worldwide perspective for education, research, service, and consultation; we are unique in relating these activities to military medicine, disaster medicine, and military medical readiness."
Those who come to USU to study, teach, practice or conduct research understand that we are part of something greater than ourselves. Our mission is distinct from that of every other medical school in the country. In addition to educating the future leaders of the military health system and the U.S. Public Health Service, we are helping our sponsoring services, the DoD, and the U.S. Public Health Service defend the national security of the United States and the health security of the world. Because our students come to USU to learn to care for those in harm’s way, we and they must strive for excellence in everything we do. Nothing less is acceptable. This commitment to excellence applies whether the activity takes place in a campus classroom or laboratory, the LRC, the Hemming Simulation Center, field exercises like Bushmaster, Walter Reed and other elements of “America’s Academic Health Campus”, other MTFs across the country, or in a military hospital, laboratory or battlefield aid station on the other side of the world.
The group that best personifies our commitment to excellence is our alumni — not only our graduates, but everyone who has served, taught or led here since the school was founded. Around the clock and around the world, in every theater of operations, our alumni affirm the value of the Hébert School of Medicine through their service to the nation as master clinicians, inspiring teachers, impactful public health practitioners, compassionate therapists, innovative research scientists and exemplary leaders. For more than four decades, their steadfast and enduring commitment to excellence has set the standard that we, the current students, faculty, staff and administration aspire to match. We are grateful for their service and we are committed to following their example.
If you put the first letter of each of the four values we’ve discussed this week together (Respect, Integrity, Safety and Excellence) they spell “RISE.” Here, at “America’s Medical School” we rise to every challenge and by doing so, we are a rising force in military health, biomedical research, medical education, global health engagement and health leadership. All of us who work, teach, learn or serve in this remarkable School and Health Sciences University are grateful for the opportunity to support the national security of the United States and advance the health security of the world.