School of Medicine

Attendance/Participation and Absences


During all phases of training (Foundational and Clinical), students may be excused for necessary health care services to maintain their physical and mental well-being (such as preventive health services, care for chronic illnesses, physical therapy and counseling/psychological services).

Students must communicate planned absences to the course coordinator, course director or other supervisors as outlined in the guidelines for Foundational Sciences Curriculum, Clinical Curriculum and Clinical Rotation Absence Guidelines sections below. Students need not disclose the specific type of healthcare that is being sought. A student’s decision to seek healthcare during a foundational or clinical course should have no impact on his or her performance evaluation or grade for the course.

Special Circumstances

Religious Accommodations


The purpose of this principle is to acknowledge respect for the religious diversity of Baylor College of Medicine students by providing opportunities, where possible, for accommodation in cases where genuine conflicts exist between students’ religious beliefs/practices and educational activities. Such accommodations must honor the primacy of our commitment to patient care and not unduly burden faculty or disproportionately affect the general student population involved in the affected educational activity.


These guidelines apply to BCM students who, because of religious beliefs or practice, believe that they are unable to attend a class, participate in any examination, or in other ways fulfill an educational requirement of any course, clerkship or other required activity.


Recognizing that the religious diversity of our students may result in conflicts between students’ religious beliefs/practices and certain educational activities, BCM will attempt to make accommodations that honor the primacy of its commitment to patient care and do not unduly burden faculty or disproportionately affect the general student population involved in the affected educational activity.

Students who believe they have a need for religious accommodation during any course, clerkship or other required educational activity shall notify the relevant course/clerkship faculty, as soon as possible, after an impending conflict becomes apparent – preferably prior to or at the beginning of the course, clerkship or other activity. If it is established that there is a legitimate need for the affected student(s), where possible, the student(s) shall be provided reasonable accommodation, including the opportunity to make up the academic activity in conflict.

View the fillable student religious accommodation request form.

Form evaluation: From BCM Policies and Procedures 23.2.01 - Respectful & Professional Learning Environment Policy: Standard for Student Conduct and College Oversight (Baylor login and network connection required).

The recipient will review the form and may contact the requestor or relevant administrators (e.g., a course director or professor) to gather additional information before making a determination, if needed. Requests for religious or medical accommodations may be denied in the event of undue hardship to BCM and its operations (e.g., risk to patient or Learner safety or fundamental alteration of program or curriculum requirements).

If the dean or designee or other relevant administrators assert that the accommodation poses an undue hardship to the school or program or its operation (e.g., conflicts with applicable accreditation standards), the assertion must be based on reasonable grounds (e.g., best practices or specific hardship to the program) and documented in writing. The school dean or designee is responsible for consulting with the Office of the General Counsel to work to resolve the matter in accordance with applicable laws and College policies.

Parental Leave

There is no formal policy regarding childbirth or adoption leave for medical students at BCM. Students who anticipate absences due to childbirth or adoption are encouraged to meet with a Dean of Student Affairs for guidance. An individualized plan will be created with efforts made to avoid a delay in the student’s graduation date to the extent possible, taking into consideration that certain portions of the curriculum are more flexible than others. Depending on the circumstances and the length of leave requested, a formal Leave of Absence (Baylor login and network connection required) may be suggested by a Dean of Student Affairs. 

Breastfeeding Accommodations

BCM does all that is possible to ensure that students are able to properly balance study, and home life, especially when a parent and child’s optimal health calls for breastfeeding. The institution is committed to supporting breastfeeding students by providing them with reasonable time and dedicated space to express breast milk while fulfilling school responsibilities for as long as the student chooses to breastfeed their child(ren). BCM strives to provide breastfeeding students with a secure, quiet, clean, private, accessible area, other than a bathroom, so that they may express breast milk in a calm, stress-free, and positive environment that is free from intrusion. Please see BCM policy 02.2.50 - Accommodations for Breastfeeding Mothers (Baylor login and network connection required) for additional information and reach out to a Dean of Student Affairs for guidance. 

Foundational Sciences Curriculum

Medical students are expected to remain in academic residence during the published academic terms (i.e., reside in the regional vicinity). Personal time away from Baylor College of Medicine School of Medicine, within the timeframe of required academic activities without prior approval, is considered a breach of professionalism. Personal time away during an academic term will require prior approval from the Dean of the Medical School or designee and will not be granted without cause. Furthermore, while a student is actively enrolled in the School of Medicine, attendance and participation in SOM courses takes precedence over all other obligations including but not limited to enrollment in courses outside the SOM (both online and in person) and SOM committee participation.

Foundational sciences courses entail a variety of educational experiences, each with its own attendance requirement. Unless otherwise specified in a Course Overview Document, attendance at lectures is recommended and expected but is not mandatory. However, streaming services of individual classes is not an enumerated right. Technical difficulties or system failures may occur, and it is the responsibility of the student to become familiar with that content if they choose not to attend a lecture session.

Educational experiences such as laboratories, active learning sessions, team-based learning sessions, live patient sessions (even when occurring in a large lecture hall), clinical preceptorship experiences, and other small group learning activities require in person attendance. Active learning sessions – such as those involving patients or faculty panels, may change on short notice that is not predictable. It is the expectation that students, unless they have already received prior approval to be absent, will be available for any rearranging of sessions in a course within their academic residence.

Course directors may factor satisfactory attendance in deriving a student’s final course grade and may limit absences. The criteria for satisfactory attendance and the impact of attendance on a student’s final course grade are specified in the Course Overview Document of each course.

There are two (2) types of Academic Absences (Planned and Unplanned).

Planned Absences consist of, but may not be limited to the following: 

  • Personal Nature – such as: scheduled medical appointment, immediate family life event
  • Professional Nature – presenting a paper or poster at a medical conference or society meeting

Requests for planned absences should be submitted to the Foundational Curriculum Deans at least 2 weeks prior to the start of the term. Course Overview Documents (COD’s) are posted 8 weeks prior to the beginning of a term to inform students of sessions that require attendance. A request for a planned, excused absence will be reviewed by curriculum leadership and students will be notified upon approval.

Unplanned Absences consist of, but may not be limited to the following:

  • Excused - illness, immediate personal or family emergency
  • Unexcused - those which do not fall in the excused category

Notification of unplanned absences should be submitted to the Course Director(s) and Foundational Curriculum Deans in a timely manner.
If the absence involves an examination, students must also contact the Student Affairs Deans.

Please refer to Blackboard for specific instructions for communicating absence requests or notifications during the Foundational Curriculum.

Revised July 28, 2022.

Clinical Curriculum

Students who register for Clinical Rotations (Clerkships, Sub-Internships, Selectives, and Electives) are expected to honor their commitment to the course. A student desiring to change their schedule must adhere to the add/drop policy (outlined under academic policies). Clinical Rotation (including research) may be added four weeks prior to the start of the rotation. Clinical rotations must be dropped six weeks prior to the start of the rotation. Students must complete the requisite form, which must be submitted to the Office of the Registrar prior to the start of the rotation.

Attendance and full participation during all aspects of Clinical Rotations, Electives, DDASH, APEX and any other clinical year(s) required course are expected and considered an important part of the student's responsibility and education. Furthermore, attendance and participation are both important components in the evaluation of student performance.

Students form an integral part of the hospital or office team and are accorded real roles based on the expectation that they will be there to fulfill their educational and patient care responsibilities. For this reason, it is expected that absences from clinical rotations will be minimal and only for legitimate reasons that are described below (Clinical Rotation Absence Guidelines).

All students are required to be present on the first day of a Clinical Rotation. Participation in the orientation session of a new Clinical Rotation is mandatory since important information regarding Clinical Rotation expectations and procedures is covered on the first day. Course expectations and attendance requirements for all Clinical Rotations are determined and recorded by the department. In addition, students are expected to remain available to discharge clinical responsibilities until 5 p.m. of the final day of the applicable quarter, term, month or two-week selective.

In addition to following the Guidelines on Clinical Rotation Absences, the student must provide a written physician's note to the Office of Student Affairs for medical absences lasting three days or more. This letter should not contain Private Medical Information.

Students will not be scheduled to perform clinical duties on official Baylor College of Medicine holidays.

Clinical Rotation Absence Guidelines - Clerkships, Sub-Internships, Selectives, and Electives

An excused absence is one in which the student has a legitimate reason for being absent and he/she obtains appropriate permission, in advance, from the course director for the days in question.

Students must inform the course coordinator, the course director, and the appropriate attending physician or chief resident on the team to which they are assigned for any scheduled absences and any absence arising from an emergency situation unless physically unable to communicate. Failure to communicate an absence as directed may be considered an unexcused absence and may be grounds for failure of the rotation.

Reasons for excused absenteeism may include:

  • Medical illness experienced by the student (physician note required on the 3rd day of illness)
  • Personal crisis (e.g., death or illness of immediate family member)
  • Child birth 
  • Presentation at professional meetings (up to two days with attendance up to department's discretion)
  • Residency Interviews

Absences NOT covered by the categories above (such as attending a wedding or graduation of a friend or family member) may or may not be granted following review by the course director. It is likely that students will be required to make up any time for such absences.

An unexcused absence is any absence in which the student fails to gain prior permission or falls outside of the guidelines outlined above for excused absences. Unexcused absences are grounds for failure of a clinical rotation and should be reported to the Dean of Student Affairs.

Note: Frequent absences, regardless of the reason, may be used as one component in calculating a student's overall grade, and may result in grades of marginal pass or fail. Misrepresenting absences or absence requests is a breach of professionalism and is grounds for failure.

Students who miss more than the minimum allowed absences may still pass the rotation if: a) performance on days attended is satisfactory; AND, b) students make-up the excess days missed in a manner acceptable to the course director. Make-up time will not exceed the number of days missed.

Excused Absences and Remediation

Each clinical rotation allows a limited number of excused absences based on the length of rotation. Refer to the table below to determine the number of excused absences allowed before remediation is required.

Excused Absences and Remediation
Clinical rotationExcused absencesResulting consequences
1 week0.5 daysNo remediation
1 dayRemediation required
More than 1 dayRepeat the rotation or sub-rotation
2 weeks1 dayNo make-up time
2 daysRemediation required
More than 2 daysRepeat the rotation or sub-rotation
4 weeks1-2 daysNo make-up time
3-4 daysRemediation required
More than 4 daysRepeat the rotation or sub-rotation

Revised Dec. 2, 2021