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Attendance in the MD Program

A high rate of attendance is key to the success of medical students, given the competency-based, experiential nature of medical training and the central role played by highly interactive small-group modes of instruction at the University of Toronto. At the same time, we recognize that there are instances, which may necessitate you to take time away from the MD Program. The MD Program has adopted a set of regulations for student attendance and guidelines for approved absences from mandatory activities, colloquially known as 'absence policy'.

These regulations and guidelines describe reasons for absences that are normally acceptable and corresponding procedures that are intended to:

  • minimize disruption to student learning and patient care
  • enable consistent and equitable decision-making
  • maintain the educational integrity of the MD Program’s goals, objectives and competencies
  • facilitate the early identification, in a safe and confidential manner, of students who may require support
  • ensure students are empowered to succeed in their progress through the program

Types of absence

Absences from mandatory learning activities fall into two categories:

  1. Unplanned: absences that arise due to unforeseen and often emergent circumstances

  2. Planned: absences that arise due to known or anticipated circumstances

A prolonged absence or series of absences that affects the ability of a student to complete a course or curricular component within its normal or a reasonably extended timeframe (as defined by the relevant curriculum leaders) may be more effectively addressed and supported by a Leave of Absence (LOA), defined as an official, temporary withdrawal from studies. Further Details regarding LOAs are included in the program’s Regulations and guidelines for leaves of absence from the MD Program

Mandatory Learning Activities?

Please note that the following are considered unprofessional behaviour that may be reflected in a student’s professionalism assessment:

  • Failure to attend a mandatory learning activity for an urgent/emergent reason (unplanned absence) without providing notification within a reasonable timeframe
  • Failure to attend a mandatory learning activity for a reason that was known or anticipated, or can reasonably be expected to have been known or anticipated, but for which a planned absence request was not submitted
  • Disregarding the decision of a MD Program leader regarding a planned absence request

Reporting an absence

Unplanned absence

Unplanned absences are absences that arise due to unforeseen and often emergent circumstances, including for:

  • Self-care
  • Illness/injury/personal crisis
  • Family emergency
  • Funeral/memorial service
  • Travel/transportation emergencies (i.e. accidents, subway breakdowns)
  • Other

Notification Procedures

You are responsible for reporting an unplanned absence using the MD Program’s unplanned absence notification form (WORD) as soon as possible after attending to the immediate needs arising from the situation. Please submit the request from your University of Toronto email account.

Respect for the workplace nature of the clinical environment is an important part of student professionalism. It is important, then, that you make reasonable attempts to inform the clinical site leaders, preceptors, tutors, and other relevant educational staff of your absence from scheduled small group learning activities and/or clinical rotations.

When reporting an absence via e-mail, please include your clinical supervisor and coordinator, tutors, and other relevant educational staff, if known, on the CC line (e.g. Clinical Skills, Clerkship rotation clinics, etc.).

Submission of a U of T Verification of Illness (VOI) Form is required for health-related absences from assessments or for health-related absences of more than two consecutive days of mandatory learning sessions. The completed U of T VOI form must be submitted to MD Urgent Communication normally no more than five business days after the last day of the unplanned absence. Depending upon the type or duration of the absence, or the number of prior absences, you may be required to submit other supporting documentation.

Planned absence

Planned absences arise due to known or anticipated circumstances and require prior approval by the Course or Component Director.

Possible types of planned absences include:

  • Academic presentation at a conference
  • Participation at a conference in an official leadership role
  • Significant event (major celebration or event for self or another, invited athletics event or other competition)
  • Health care appointment
  • Caregiving
  • Funeral or memorial service
  • Religious observance
  • Other (attach copies of any relevant documentation)

Planned absences do not include:

  • A request for changes to student call schedules. Students who would like to request a change to their call schedule should contact the relevant Clerkship course director and Clerkship course administrator.

Please refer to the full policy document for information regarding typical decision outcomes for common planned absence requests.

Notification Procedures

You must submit a planned absence request using the MD Program’s planned absence notification form (WORD) in a timely manner:

  • For Clerkship clinical rotations, at least 30 days prior to the start date of the rotation in which the missed activity(ies) are scheduled to take place.
  • For all other Clerkship courses and all Foundations courses, at least 30 days prior to the activity(ies) to be missed.

Please submit the request from your University of Toronto email account.

Information Requirement(s) for Reasons of Absence

We strongly advise you not to commit to any plans before receiving confirmation of approval from the Course or Component Director(s) (or delegate).

If the planned absence request is approved, you are responsible for informing the immediate education supervisors of the activities that you will be absent from. If the matter is sensitive, you may elect to first consult with the Associate Dean, Health Professions Student Affairs (HPSA) or a counsellor in the Office of Health Professions Student Affairs to determine appropriate notification procedures.


General regulation on taking examinations as scheduled

The Faculty expects students to be present at examinations as scheduled. Nevertheless, illness or personal circumstances may interfere with a student’s ability to adequately prepare for or write an examination as scheduled. In these circumstances, students should contact the appropriate Course Director as soon as the problem becomes apparent. It is the responsibility of the Course Director in the first instance, to determine whether the circumstances warrant an accommodation.

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