The ombudspersons investigate complaints brought forward by students and work to achieve an equitable solution. The purpose of an ombudsman is to enhance communication and clarify misunderstandings in any situation, which involves potential disputes, to provide information about possible courses of action and to help resolve issues so that they do not grow into more serious conflicts.
The ombudsperson shall thoroughly investigate each incident brought to his/her attention taking into account all sides of the issue, counsel the involved parties or make referral for such counseling, provide periodic reports of such incidents and their outcomes/resolution to the Vice Dean of Educational Affairs, and seek appropriate advice from senior academic or administrative faculty when necessary to assist in resolving issues of concern.
Medical and Graduate Students Ombudspersons
Debra Byler, MD
Director of the Office for a Respectful Learning Environment
Vice Chair of Pediatric Education
Neural Behavioral Science Course Director
Division Chief of Pediatric Neurology
PA Student Ombudspersons
Peter Lewis, MD
Family and Community Medicine
Resident and Fellow Ombudspersons
What is an ombudsperson?
The Ombudsperson program for medical students and graduate students has been in place at Penn State College of Medicine since 1991. Two faculty members serve as ombudspersons for students. Confidentiality is maintained in all cases. Brief notes and copies of materials students provide are placed in a secure file. Details of cases are not shared between the two faculty ombudspersons or with any other person without the express permission of the student(s) bringing the issue to the ombudsperson.
Penn State College of Medicine’s student ombudspersons serve as a neutral, independent and confidential resource for medical and graduate students within the College of Medicine community.
- Neutral – The College of Medicine ombudsperson serves as a neutral, independent and confidential resource for medical and graduate students within the College of Medicine community.
- Independent – The ombudsperson is independent of existing administrative or academic structures and is responsible only to the Dean of the College of Medicine or his designees. The ombudsperson supplements the existing resources available to faculty, staff and students.
- Confidential – The ombudsperson will treat all matters confidentially within the bounds of the law. Your privacy will be respected. Should the pursuit of an inquiry require the disclosure of details that identify you, you will be contacted and no further action will be taken without your permission. When there is a potential threat to safety or a legal proceeding with subpoena, it may have to be shared. The ombudsperson is an impartial complaint-handler who strives to see that people are treated fairly and equitably at the College of Medicine.
What do student ombudspersons do?
- Provide a comfortable, confidential environment for students to air concerns
- Listen to complaints or grievances
- Work with people to develop options for resolving their concerns or complaints
- Open channels of communication
- Suggest approaches for addressing and managing conflicts
- Research and provide answers to questions regarding a policy or procedure
- Serve as a neutral third party in conflict resolution
- Seek fair and equitable solutions to problems