About

Ombuds Office

The Indiana University School of Medicine Ombuds Office is a place where learners and faculty can discuss concerns, complaints and disputes with an impartial third-party in a safe environment. Organizational ombudspersons are “designated neutrals appointed or employed by an organization to facilitate the informal resolution of concerns of employees, managers, students and, sometimes, external clients of the organization” (International Ombudsman Association). As a neutral party, the Ombuds Office is a resource for individuals wishing to explore and assess options for resolving conflicts, lapses in professionalism, allegations of mistreatment, and other problematic issues or concerns at IU School of Medicine. The Ombuds Office is just one way that the school strives to provide a positive, inclusive learning environment.

Contact the Ombuds Office to discuss a sensitive issue, to find guidance on how to address a concern, conflict, or mistreatment incident or to identify what policies may be applicable to a specific situation. Requests and consultations with the IU School of Medicine Ombuds Office are confidential to the extent permitted by applicable law and university policy.

What does the Ombuds Office do?

After requesting an initial consultation with a member of the IU School of Medicine Ombuds Office, an ombudsperson will take several actions including, but not limited to:

  • Respond within 3-5 business days to a request for an initial consultation
  • Listen carefully to the concern
  • Explain relevant rights and responsibilities
  • Discuss related university policies or regulations
  • Suggest options for resolving the issue
  • Make a referral to additional university resources if appropriate or necessary
  • Make additional follow-up inquiries about the situation when necessary
  • Consult with the Teacher Learner Advocacy Committee (TLAC) if the situation is complex
  • Make recommendations for follow-up actions to appropriate IU School of Medicine offices
  • Bring systemic issues to the attention of IU School of Medicine leaders with the authority to address concerns
  • Partner with TLAC on initiatives to prevent problems and enhance professionalism across the school

What does the IUSM Ombuds Office not do?

As part of IU School of Medicine’s commitment to promoting a supportive learning environment, the Office operates independently as a supplement to existing administrative and formal dispute resolution processes and has no formal decision-making authority. The Office is not an advocate for either side in a dispute. Instead, the Ombuds Office is an impartial advocate for fair and consistent treatment. The Ombuds office does not function as an arbitrator or adjudicator, assign sanctions, or keep formal university files or records. When the Ombuds Office thinks a formal investigation is appropriate, the Ombuds will refer the matter to another office as appropriate to conduct an investigation. The Office does not give legal advice.

Meet the Ombuds

Dr. Joseph DiMicco received his BS in Biology from Tufts University in 1969 and was immediately summoned for military service (i.e., he was drafted). After this experience, he earned his PhD at Georgetown University in Washington DC (awarded in 1978) and then served two years as a Staff Fellow at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda MD. He joined the faculty at IU School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor in 1980 and for the next 31 years pursued a highly satisfying research career in neuroscience while educating graduate and medical students, ultimately directing the course in Medical Pharmacology for second-year medical students at the Indianapolis campus. Dr. DiMicco retired as a Chancellor’s Professor in 2011. While the freedom of his Professor Emeritus status sustained him quite happily in retirement at first, he found that, increasingly, he missed his connection to his former colleagues and especially to the students. Consequently, when he was offered the opportunity to serve as the school’s first Ombudsperson, he eagerly pursued it and was ultimately selected. He hopes to cultivate a sense of safety, confidentiality and empathy as he and other key contributors shape the office in these first months and years.

The Ombuds Office will create a structured, centralized, confidential process for capturing and addressing concerns about conflict, allegations of mistreatment, and/or poor professionalism. The Ombuds Office will also triage and refer issues which, by policy, are the purview of other offices with formal procedures, such as the Office of Equal Opportunity. This enables greater responsiveness to concerns.

Studies show that ombudspersons within higher education institutions yield benefits such as the following:
• Providing a neutral place for faculty and learners to confide concerns and conflicts, report allegations of wrongdoing, and discuss options for resolution free from retaliation and without being required to engage in formal proceedings
• Facilitating informal and/or mediated conversations to resolve issues that might otherwise escalate to resource-intensive grievance and legal proceedings
• Understanding the complex legal requirements of moving complaints into a more formal process (e.g., Office of Equal Opportunity)
• Supporting productivity by reducing the amount of resources that must be diverted to conflict management
• Fostering professionalism and improving retention
• Operating as a clearinghouse for information on policies, processes and resources within the School and University
• Conveying issues and trends to leadership and advising on concerns, using his/her neutrality to support efforts to align with and act on stated institutional values

The office serves faculty and learners across all IU School of Medicine campuses (medical students, residents, fellows, graduate students, and faculty and other academic appointees). IU School of Medicine staff members with concerns will be referred to employee relations through School’s Human Resources team

Since 1999, the Teacher-Learner Advocacy Committee (TLAC) at IU School of Medicine has been engaged in the important work of resolving conflicts and investigating allegations of wrongdoing to maintain a positive learning environment. The Ombuds Office adds institutional resources to this critically important work. The ombudspersons works closely with TLAC and may call upon committee members to assist with complex cases when needed, as TLAC is focused on the prevention of problems and the enhancement of professionalism. The IU School of Medicine ombudspersons collaborate closely with TLAC to review aggregate (non-identifying) organizational issues and trends, assist with evaluating indicators of the teaching and learning environment, and inform and develop initiatives, outreach and education across the IU School of Medicine community.