2.09 Leaves of Absence

Medical Education

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2.09 Leaves of Absence

A leave of absence (LOA) is a period of non-enrollment during which a student is not considered to be working toward the MD degree. A LOA is granted for up to one year with the possibility of a one-year extension, granted on a case-by-case basis after review by the Council of Academic Societies (CAS; Section 3.06), if a student submits the request before the first year of leave is over. A maximum of two years for leave is permitted, after which a student is automatically considered withdrawn from the school. In this instance, the student may apply for readmission through the CAS. If a student is readmitted, he or she may be required to repeat a designated number of courses.

Students contemplating a leave of absence should meet with their Society Advisory Dean/Director or Associate Director, the HMS Registrar, and, if applicable, their financial aid officer for guidance.

Any student who does not attend class in Year I or Year II for a period of 30 days and has not applied for a LOA will be considered absent without leave and will be considered to have withdrawn from Harvard Medical School. See Sections 1.03 and 2.02 for guidance about leaves during Years III and IV.

Application for a Leave

Students applying for a leave of absence must follow the steps outlined below:

1.  Notify your Society and the Registrar in writing of your decision to take a leave. Include the last date you attended class, which must be no more than 30 days before your decision to take a leave. Indicate the anticipated start and end dates of the leave.

2.  The Registrar’s Office will confirm your leave in writing and will provide additional information regarding your official status, a reminder for a student on financial aid to meet with his/her Financial Aid Officer, and other relevant matters. The Registrar will notify all courses in which you are registered and adjust tuition per the refund policy (See Section 6.03).

3.  If you are on financial aid, you are required to meet with your Financial Aid Officer and complete a loan exit interview.

4.  Your Society will follow up with you and describe any requirements you must complete before you return. You should update your Society periodically throughout your leave.

5.  Approximately 2 months before you plan to return, you should contact your Society and the Registrar for additional information regarding your proposed return to school. You must meet all conditions set by your Society, the CAS, the Promotion and Review Board, and/or the Registrar in order to resume studies.

Resuming Student Status

Students who wish to apply for financial aid may contact the Financial Aid Office for application materials or visit the Financial Aid Office website at http://www.hms.harvard.edu/finaid. Applications are available in March for the following academic year. These materials must be submitted to the Financial Aid Office by the middle of May. Students returning at a time other than the beginning of a semester may petition to have their financial aid budget revised to reflect actual tuition and expenses for the periods of their student status.

Important Information about Leaves of Absence

  • Financial Aid:  Students on a leave of absence are not eligible to receive financial aid.
  • Loan Repayment:  Because students on a leave of absence are not considered to be working toward their degree, the grace (deferral) period for loan repayment may lapse during the leave. For loans with the typical six or nine-month grace period, repayment will start after six or nine months of leave and continue through the rest of the leave. For such students, loan repayment will begin immediately after graduation, rather than six or nine months into the first postgraduate year. Students need to review this information during the financial aid exit interview.
  • Health Insurance:  Students on leave are eligible to purchase 4 months of coverage from the first day without coverage to assist with transition of care to a new provider. Please refer to http://huhs.harvard.edu for complete details on health insurance coverage for students on leave or contact Member Services for additional information.
  • Disability Insurance:  Students on leave are not eligible to buy disability insurance during their leave.
  • Malpractice Insurance:  Students on leave are not covered by HMS for malpractice insurance.
  • Scholars in Medicine funding: Students on leave of absence are not eligible for funding through the Scholars in Medicine Office; SIM funding is limited to students who are enrolled in the HMS MD program.

Special Situations

  • Medical Leave: Students needing disability insurance must state that they are taking a Medical Leave of Absence. The same steps described above are required. In addition, the student must have a HUHS physician’s note indicating that taking a leave is appropriate and, when the student is ready to return, a HUHS physician’s note of support.
  • Plan of action generated by the Promotion and Review Board (PRB): If the leave of absence is part of a plan generated by action of the Promotion and Review Board, requirements for reinstatement will be developed by the Board in consultation with a student’s society. The PRB will notify the student directly. See Section 4.03.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth during medical school: See Section 2.21.

Involuntary leave of absence [for medical reasons]

The Dean for Medical Education may place a student on involuntary leave of absence [for medical reasons] if:

  • The student poses a direct threat to the health and safety of him/herself or others or has seriously disrupted others in the student’s residential community or academic environment, and
  • The student’s behavior is determined to be the result of a medical condition, or the student refuses to cooperate with efforts deemed necessary by the Harvard University Health Services to evaluate the cause of the student’s behavior or threatening state.

Before placing a student on involuntary leave of absence [for medical reasons], the Dean for Medical Education will consult with the Dean for Students and with the Director of the Harvard University Health Services.

The student will be notified in writing of the decision to place him or her on involuntary leave of absence [for medical reasons] and the reasons for the decision. The student may ask the Dean for Medical Education, in person or in writing, to reconsider the decision. If the student disputes any of the factual considerations underlying the decision, the Dean for Medical Education will refer the dispute to the Appeals Board of the Promotion and Review Board for fact finding.

Students who have been placed on involuntary leave of absence [for medical reasons] and later request to return to HMS will be required to provide evidence that they are ready to resume their studies and academic responsibilities. Such evidence may include documentation of the student’s attempts to resolve the issues that led to his/her departure through written or verbal contact with the people from whom he/she has received care and/or employers. Consultation with the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) is required; such consultation will allow HUHS to advise HMS whether the medical condition that resulted in the behavior or threatening state is under control through treatment or no longer exists. Additional requirements may be put forth as needed. General guidelines for students taking a leave of absence will apply to these cases.


Last updated on 3/8/16