Ombuds? No, it’s not a new type of earbud. Or something that sprouts when planted. An ombuds is a designated person—an impartial third party—with whom to discuss concerns, complaints and issues in a safe environment. Formed in 2016, the IU School of Medicine Ombuds Office is a resource for learners and faculty to talk about and explore options for resolving conflicts or addressing sensitive issues, such as breakdowns in communication, fairness, lapses in professionalism or allegations of mistreatment. Ombuds services at IU School of Medicine are:
Confidential – All discussions with the ombuds are held in strict confidence.
Marly Bradley, MD, JD, FAAP
Neutral – The ombuds is impartial and an advocate only for fairness.
Informal – No records are kept, and the ombuds does not participate in any formal investigations or reporting.
Independent – The ombuds is completely separate from any office or administrative entity at IU School of Medicine.
IU School of Medicine ombuds Joseph DiMicco, PhD, and Marly Bradley, MD, JD, are available to learners and faculty on all nine campuses. They recently answered some questions about what they do and the benefits of reaching out to them.
Describe how the confidentiality of individuals seeking services from the Ombuds Office is protected.
DiMicco: Conversations and interactions we have with visitors to our office are held in strict confidence—it’s an essential part of providing a safe place for people to share their concerns. However, we are required, ethically and by school and university policy, to report if we suspect someone is in danger of physical harm or if there is evidence of sexual harassment or discrimination. We make this very clear to visitors during our initial conversation.
Bradley: Everything we do is very informal. We don’t keep any records of meetings with faculty and learners, and there is no reporting of who visits or why, unless there is concern about a person’s physical safety or in the event of harassment or discrimination. Beyond that, we would only share information with another office if the visitor gives us permission. It’s totally up to them.
What should visitors expect when they contact your office?
Bradley: One of us will reach out to schedule a meeting—preferably in person, but by phone, Zoom or Skype if the visitor is from a regional campus. The first thing we do is listen. Every situation is different, but our primary role is to help individuals help themselves. Sometimes that means suggesting resources or offering options for next steps. If the visitor is interested in reporting an incident, we’ll talk through that process and possible outcomes. Our goal is not to give advice, but to be a sounding board and to help the visitor identify and explore options.
DiMicco: The Ombuds Office was born from a need for a place for learners and faculty to share concerns confidentially and to get information they need to make informed decisions. We don’t take sides in conflicts between individuals, but we do advocate for fairness.
Joseph DiMicco, PhD
What are the benefits of sharing concerns with an ombuds?
Bradley: I always tell people that it’s never a wrong decision to come and talk with us. We’re a great point of first contact, especially if someone doesn’t know where to go. Some people may just need to vent, while others come looking for specific options. Our office provides a safe environment to discuss concerns, and then visitors can proceed however they like from there. We welcome repeat visitors, or people can come just once—it’s entirely up to them.
DiMicco: Marly and I both enjoy doing this; we find it rewarding to help people navigate sensitive or challenging issues. We don’t solve people’s problems for them, but we believe there’s value in the resources we offer to help faculty and learners resolve issues on their own and move on.