Some students at a Nashville medical college say their years of hard work, not to mention their dreams, are dashed.
They say they've been kicked out of school because of questions they raised. Now, with just one year left in school, their hopes of becoming dentists may be over.
Four dental students at Meharry Medical College have been dismissed, and one was suspended. They said it's all because they raised serious questions about the school's dental program.
"I really feel it's a retaliation for us bringing, wanting to bring, these issues to light," said dismissed student Juan Mancera.
In October, the group says it sent a letter to Meharry's board of trustees, pointing out accreditation issues involving patient care, grading policies, insufficient faculty and problems with facilities and resources.
"These are things the school refuses to pay attention to and is getting away with it," Mancera said.
Mancera said after getting no initial response, he organized a student meeting with plans to take the concerns to the Commission on Dental Accreditation, or CODA.
But right before the meeting, the five students organizing it say they were suspended and later dismissed after a disciplinary hearing "for unauthorized access to Meharry's patient management system for the purpose of manipulating patient and student scheduling."
It's something they strongly deny.
"If feels like my heart was just ripped out," said suspended student Sabrina Joline-Ellis.
The students say Axium, the system they're accused of manipulating at Meharry, is widely known to be flawed.
"I find it kind of baffling that we're being held accountable for a system that's imperfect," said dismissed student Paul Williams.
The group says bringing the accreditation issues to light is the real reason for their dismissal, and they believe Meharry has yet to provide proof that they did anything wrong.
"To this day, I still don't have any documents that clearly state exactly what I did," Mancera said.
"It just hurts because I've done so much," Joline-Ellis said.
"Once you're dismissed from dental school, you cannot get into another dental school. It's essentially your dream is deferred," Williams said.
The students have appealed their dismissal to Meharry's president and are being allowed to continue classes for the time being.
Meharry officials provided a statement, saying, "Meharry Medical College has received no information regarding this case from any accrediting body. Our accreditation is in good standing."
Officials also said they cannot comment further because of student privacy rights guaranteed by federal law.
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