The former top administrator of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s Camden medical school gave passing grades to unqualified students, potentially endangering their innocent patients, according to a federal monitor’s report.
In the report released Monday, the federal monitor investigating the scandal-plagued university wrote that the probe confirmed allegations against Paul Mehne ranging from grade changing and violating school policy for student examinations to financial irregularities.
The 14-page report from former federal judge Herbert J. Stern states the grading improprieties “could cause untold damage to the lives of innocent individuals at the hands of under-trained or unprepared medical professionals.”
Mehne had been the associate dean for academic and student affairs at the University’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School campus in Camden since 1995. He was suspended with pay in June and then retired at the end of the month.
A telephone message left Monday at Mehne’s home in Havertown, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, was not returned.
“Paul Mehne’s betrayal of the trust placed in him by the university, his colleagues and his students is unconscionable,” said UMDNJ spokeswoman Anna Farneski.
Since removing him, she said, the university has made numerous changes, including requiring that all grades be sent directly to administrators at the main campus in New Brunswick and adding three new administrative positions to increase oversight of the Camden campus. Farneski said every Camden student who graduated has passed a rigorous national licensing exam as required by law.
According to Stern’s report, an undisclosed number of students got passing grades at the direction of Mehne even though they had not completed required clerkships in which they got hands-on training in hospitals or clinics. Some were improperly permitted to retake exams.
Over a six-year period ending in February, not a single student from the Camden campus was referred to a committee that deals with grade-related issues. The report called that “incomprehensible,” noting 357 students from the New Brunswick and Piscataway campuses were referred for review over the six years.
Mehne, upon becoming associate dean, required all instructors to send student grades directly to him, rather than to the registrar’s office, then forwarded the grades to the assistant registrar late or piecemeal.
According to the report, one clerkship director said Mehne had told him to hold up reporting grades sometimes for a year or more of students who did not pass National Board of Medical Examiners exams, a requirement for getting a passing grade in any clerkship.
One clerkship director said a student who failed a national exam required in a specialty never retook the test, but Mehne told the director to change the student’s grade to “conditional pass” and later to “pass.” And, according to the report, a faculty member who would have had to sign off on the same student’s clerkship back in 2000 told the monitor someone else had forged his signature on the student’s final evaluation form.
Stern also found that Mehne improperly approved reimbursements for money spent on alcohol at two student events, food at faculty committee meetings and tutoring and books for certain students.
UMDNJ, which promotes itself as the nation’s largest health sciences university, has been the subject of a federal investigation into alleged Medicare and Medicaid fraud, among other issues. In December 2005, its trustees appointed Stern as a federal monitor to oversee the school’s finances to avoid having U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie indict the university.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said it was too early to say whether Mehne would face any criminal or civil charges as a result of his actions, but that Christie’s office reviews each report from the monitor “and will act if needed.”
Meanwhile, the university has been on probation since last October with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The regional accrediting body has ordered UMDNJ to document progress in addressing financial concerns, appropriate oversight and other issues.
On the Net: http://www.umdnj.edu
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