George Washington University Responds to Breach of Standards

November 13, 2011

Students enrolled in George Washington’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Physician Assistant Program who received grades for two classes in which they never received instruction will be refunded their tuition but allowed to keep the credit.

Last month, the Office of the Provost received three letters from students in the physician assistant program, who reported they received an A in two online courses but received no instruction. Venetia Orcutt, program director and department chair of the physician assistant program, had been assigned to teach a sequence of Evidence-Based Medicine courses over three semesters in 2010 – one in-person class and two online modules. The university confirmed that Dr. Orcutt did not teach the two online classes but gave all the students enrolled in the courses an A.

“This situation is clearly unacceptable, and on behalf of the university, I immediately accepted Dr. Orcutt’s resignation,” said Dr. Akman. “The School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the university are committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to ensure that a similar situation will never occur again.”

Dr. Orcutt resigned on Oct. 31.

After reviewing each of the individual students’ coursework, the university determined that the students would be able to keep the credit earned from the two untaught courses because the students had met the courses’ learning objectives through other courses within the physician assistant program as well as their clinical experience and other educational activities.

The students will be reimbursed the tuition they paid for the two untaught courses. They will also be allowed to take both online courses for free and receive continuing medical education credit through GW’s Office of Continuing Education for the Health Professions.

Dr. Akman has appointed an independent review committee made up of non-SMHS faculty to determine exactly what occurred and how to prevent a similar situation in the future. The committee will make recommendations to Dr. Akman by the end of December.

Dr. Akman said the university takes these types of allegations very seriously.

“Such egregious breaches of professional ethics and academic standards will not be tolerated at George Washington,” he said.