Student Professional Conduct

WVSOM students are expected to adhere to the highest standards of integrity and honesty in their interactions with patients, colleagues, faculty and administrators and behave with primary concern for patients’ welfare and respect for the rights of patients. Students are expected to adhere to the standards set forth in policies, rules and procedures.

WVSOM’s degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine may only be conferred on a candidate who, in addition to other requirements, “has demonstrated ethical, personal, and professional qualities deemed necessary for the continued successful study and practice of Osteopathic Medicine” (Institutional Policy E-27, section 2.1.4).

Any individual may bring complaints of misconduct or unprofessional behavior against any student. WVSOM will determine the appropriate manner in which to proceed with the complaint. The complaint against a student must be detailed in writing, including date, time, and witnesses, if any, using the form available on MyWVSOM. Given WVSOM’s Honor Code, anonymous complaints cannot be received. WVSOM must keep confidential the identity of any individual who has made a report or complaint, any complainant, any individual who has been reported, any respondent and any witness, except as may be permitted by the FERPA statute, or FERPA regulations, or as required by law or to conduct any investigation, hearing or judicial proceeding arising thereunder. WVSOM policy prohibits retaliatory behavior.

When a complaint is received, WVSOM will investigate the reported incident. Every incident is evaluated on an individual basis. If it is determined that the student is in violation of a policy, a sanction may be levied by the appropriate administrator. Policy provides for a common language and a shared foundational understanding of the concept of professionalism. It is often the case that an incident may not rise to the level at which it merits a formal sanction. In those situations, the incident may provide a mentoring opportunity for the student in which s/he will be able to reflect on the behavior and determine the appropriate steps to take in order to avoid any issues in the future.

For further details, please visit Institutional Policy ST-01, Academic and Professional Standards.

Responsible Use of Social Media – A Guide

Why does what I put on social media matter?

As future physicians, WVSOM students are held to a higher standard of conduct, both during in-person interactions and online. These standards are specific not only to the WVSOM community but are broadly held by the general public as well as professional organizations and institutions. As a member of a self-monitoring profession, you are called upon to not only have an awareness of your own professional behavior but also that of your colleagues.

As such, your future colleagues are paying attention to the professional reputation that you are cultivating and sharing. As you are considering residency programs, they are also considering you, and part of the information they are gathering is from your social media presence. Residency program directors are often members of a different generation than residents, and may have different expectations about what is and isn’t appropriate on social media. As a result, your posts could negatively impact your future career. And even if you believe that something that you share via social media is “private,” once it is posted, it is no longer under your control and may be shared by anyone who has seen it. Social media posts may persist far into the future and may reach a wider audience than you intended.

Sometimes, people try to protect their privacy by changing the name under which an account is registered. Such attempts to circumvent detection are rarely successful since the account owner can often be identified through pictures, either on their own or on friends’ pages.

The following guidelines, developed by WVSOM faculty and administrators, are intended to help you as you engage in the development of your professional identity. Our efforts are designed to elucidate the reasons that your attention to your online presentation is critical. If you have any questions or would like to discuss specific situations, your Regional Assistant Deans, the Associate Deans and the Dean, as well as the ASPIRE and Student Affairs staff are some of the people who can help guide you.

How is social media useful?

Social media is an effective way to share news, including publicizing upcoming events. Because of the ease of sharing posts, social media is a particularly efficient way for a message to reach a large number of people.

Official Institutional News and Branding

WVSOM maintains an official Facebook page. Posts on this page serve to promote the mission of WVSOM. Posts also comply with the style guide and standards developed by Marketing and Communications. Items posted on the official page may be shared using a link to the original post. Please note that Marketing and Communications is responsible for official news and statements on behalf of WVSOM.

If you are posting content about WVSOM that you have developed, you should seek approval from the Marketing and Communications Department. If the content could be construed as implying the involvement or approval of WVSOM, and has not gone through the approval process, you should use a disclaimer. Use the following disclaimer: This web page is not affiliated with WVSOM.

For questions regarding the Facebook page or any WVSOM news, please contact Marketing and Communications at 304-793-6833.

You may wish to refer to the following for additional information:


Professional Behavior

Members of the WVSOM community are expected to adhere to professional expectations, and especially with regard to ethical behavior toward patients, when representing themselves online. Key points include the following:

  • It is inappropriate to friend patients;
  • Be honest in your representation of your credentials;
  • You should proceed with caution if you choose to discuss health-related matters on social media; and
  • Adhere to HIPAA and FERPA: It is never appropriate to discuss patient issues or share pictures on social media. Sometimes, people may have the misguided idea that if the patient’s name is not used, the patient cannot be identified. This is inaccurate. Other details, including location, age, sex and race may allow for those who know the patient to be aware that s/he is being discussed. Therefore, no comments regarding patients are ever appropriate to be posted online.


Ultimately, you have the freedom to post your content online. However, it is important to keep in mind that with this right also comes the responsibility to consider the potential consequences of your content. If you are unsure whether your content is appropriate, take a second look and consider how it may be received by others. Seek the advice from Marketing and Communications or a WVSOM administrator.

It is always a good practice to review your content to ensure that it is respectful and non-discriminatory in nature. In the same regard as with email, you should not “send” or “post” unless you are absolutely confident in how the messaging will be received as you intend, without discriminatory bias or high emotional inflection.

You may wish to refer to the following for additional information:

  • Institutional Policy ST-01, Academic and Professional Standards;
  • WVSOM Employee Handbook, especially Sections 4.3, The Employee and His/Her Supervisor, 10.7, Appearance and Conduct and 10.13, Ethics;
  • WVSOM Student Handbook, especially the following sections: Legal Limitations on the Practice; of Medicine; Student Conduct and Professionalism; Policy Statement on Education Records; and
  • Clinical Education Manual, especially the section on HIPAA.


Safety and Acceptable Use

All members of the WVSOM community should be familiar with Institutional Policy GA-31: Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources, and especially section 12.2 Social Media Use and Security. Additional key sections are:

  • Section 9.1.3 which notes that, “The user shall maintain the confidentiality of the user accounts and passwords, and is fully responsible for all activities that occur under the user’s password or account”;
  • Section 13 which covers Prohibited Use of IT Resources;
  • Section 4.2 which covers the expectations of use of shared IT resources, including the expectation to report any issues (i.e., “…unauthorized use, damaged systems and malfunctioning software…”); and
  • Section 14 which outlines Disciplinary Action for Misuse of IT Resources.

What should I do if there is an incident online with a fellow member of the WVSOM community?

The first step should always be for you to try to engage in conversation with the other person. Ideally, this will take place in real time (i.e., in person, on the phone or via a web interface like Zoom), rather than continuing online.

If the speech has moved beyond a difference of opinion to one where you are experiencing threatening behavior, harassment or bullying, or if you are not sure whether that is the case, or if you are just unsure of how to handle the conversation, please refer to these guidelines. If you are being threatened or harmed, your complaint is important and will be investigated. If the person is found to be in violation of WVSOM policy, a sanction will be levied. If it is determined that a policy violence has not occurred, a “teachable moment conversation” with a WVSOM administrator, which is not a punishment but is instead an opportunity to educate the other person about how what they’ve said can cause harm, can often resolve the situation.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss specific situations, your Regional Assistant Deans, the Associate Deans and the Dean, as well as the ASPIRE and Student Affairs staff are some of the people who can help guide you. The WVSOM Discrimination or Harassment Complaint Form is also available though MyWVSOM.

If you suspect that there has been a data breach under HIPAA, FERPA or related to other security or privacy issues, you may use the incident response.

Effectively engaging with colleagues is a critical skill for you to master in order to be effective in your career. Conversations about difficult topics are often challenging and marked by ambiguity. Realize that participants can make mistakes but those taking the time to engage in dialogue generally do so with the expectation of growth. The next section offers some suggestions for engaging in productive conversations.

WVSOM Community Standards for Engaging in Discussion

In Fall 2019, a group of WVSOM students, faculty and staff came together for a series of campus discussions. Below are the “ground rules” that they developed for their conversations. These ground rules were developed for conversations that took place in real time, in person, which is the best way to have a meaningful dialogue. They are also useful when dialoguing in a virtual environment or in an asynchronous online environment. However, we have found that social media is generally an unsuccessful format in which to engage in real dialogue with a meaningful exchange of ideas.

We invite you to keep these suggestions in mind when engaging in dialogue, especially with those whose viewpoints may differ from your own:

  • Make an effort to get to know others in the conversation. Introduce yourself.
  • Allow others to express their opinions without interruption.
  • Be professional. Approach the conversation as an opportunity to brainstorm solutions.
  • Understand that we are bound to make mistakes.
  • Understand that there are different approaches to solving problems.
  • Understand that others will come to these discussions with different experiences from yours.
  • Listen actively and respectfully.
  • Understand that your words have effects on others.
  • Don’t be afraid to respectfully challenge one another by asking questions, but refrain from personal attacks. Focus on the ideas.
  • Share responsibility for including all voices in the conversation.
  • Be open to changing your perspectives based on what you learn from others.


Useful Resources