Assistance for the Impaired Medical Student (AIMS)
The AIMS program at New York Medical College (NYMC) was developed to address the risk of development of alcohol and substance abuse problems in medical school students. Physician impairment, often due to alcohol or other substances, has been increasingly recognized as a significant problem nationwide. Research has suggested that approximately 12-14 percent of all practicing physicians are or will become impaired with alcohol or some substance over the course of their careers. Of critical importance is the fact that a large percentage of these impaired physicians report that impairment began during their undergraduate or graduate years of medical school. Through increased awareness of the tremendous social and medical problems from alcohol and substance abuse at an early time in their careers, and through the establishment of clear guidelines, it is hoped that students and physicians can get help and reduce the prevalence of these disorders. The primary purpose of the AIMS program is to identify, prevent and treat impairments related to alcohol or other substance abuse.
AIMS is an acronym for Assistance for the Impaired Medical Student.
The program has four goals:
- To provide compassionate assistance to impaired students before they are irreversibly harmed.
- To provide help in a way that fully protects the rights of impaired students to receive treatment in strictest confidence.
- To assure that recovered students are able to continue their medical education without stigma or penalty.
- To protect patients and others from the harm that impairment may cause.
What is impairment?
Stress is a part of life and can be grouped into good and/or bad stress. Many students find medical training as stressful. While most cope in healthy manners, not everyone does. Sometimes, the stresses of medical education due to tremendous workload, financial pressures and/or changes in lifestyle may seriously strain the normal development of healthy coping mechanisms of the medical student. Occasionally, however, a student may be unable to adapt successfully to these stresses and engage in harmful coping mechanisms such as the use of alcohol or drugs. When these maladaptive coping mechanisms persist, a student may be considered impaired. The impaired medical student is one whose behavior usually violates the regulations of New York Medical College and the accepted standards of the medical profession. Fortunately, substance and chemical abuse and/or dependence are among the causes of impairment amenable to treatment. The earlier the problem is recognized the more quickly and easily it can be corrected.
The issue of confidentiality is of utmost importance. With this in mind, AIMS is designed to protect all students, including those who may find it necessary to report suspicion or occurrence of impairment of a colleague. At no time during the identification, evaluation, or treatment process will any uninvolved individuals know the identity of the impaired student or the person who reported him/her. There are four circumstances where confidentiality will not be maintained and information will be shared with Student Affairs (Please see below illustration): 1. If someone affiliated with the school makes a referral and the referred student refuses evaluation. 2. The evaluator believes the student is temporarily unfit for clinical responsibilities. 3. The evaluator believes the student is fit for clinical responsibilities but recommends treatment. If the student refuses treatment, Student Affairs would be notified. 4. If recommended treatment is not completed.
Counseling Confidentiality Understanding
Organization of the AIMS Program at New York Medical College
Drs. Baird and Stern of the Student Mental Health and Wellness Services (914-594-2542/2543) serve as the overall supervisors of this program, however, evaluation and treatment services will be conducted by Clinicians at Innovative Health Services.
Innovative Health Systems operates under Ross Fishman, PhD and David Marshall, M.D. It is certified by the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services of New York State and is a chemical dependency and abuse facility that offers initial assessment and evaluation services, addictions education and, individual and group counseling services. They are located in White Plains and accept a variety of insurance and sliding scale fees. Students will be referred to Innovative Health Systems for evaluation and treatment, when appropriate, followed by a report.
It is ideal if students can recognize that they are developing an alcohol or drug abuse problem and seek assistance before they become seriously impaired. Drs. Baird and Stern are available for referral to Innovative Health Systems who can provide educational resources to provide information and assistance to students seeking appropriate help when stresses are complicated by abuse of alcohol and substances. Students are encouraged to contact Drs. Baird and/or Stern if they have any problems.
Most likely, the impaired student will not voluntarily seek help and impairment will be detected by classmates, friends or family. The reporting person should contact Drs. Baird or Stern who will then make the referral to Innovative Health Systems, if necessary. At no time will the identity of the reporting individual be released without specific permission.
The AIMS program is designed to address the risk of alcohol and substance abuse in medical students at New York Medical College, and aid in acknowledgement, prevention, evaluation and treatment when necessary. If you or someone you know is having difficulty with alcohol or substance abuse, we at the Student Mental Health and Wellness Services have a confidential process to determine if assistance is necessary. Please call (914-594-2542/2543) for additional details.
Reon Baird, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Director of Wellness
19 Skyline Drive, Rm. 2N-B06
David Stern, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Director, Student Mental Health & Wellness Services
19 Skyline Drive, Rm. 2N-B06
19 Skyline Drive, Rm. 2N-B11
Page updated: February 11, 2014