Technical Standards


Essential Abilities and Characteristics Required for Admission and Completion of the MD Degree, 2014-2015 MD Program Handbook and Policy Manual


The MD degree is a broad undifferentiated degree attesting to general knowledge in medicine and the basic skills required for the practice of medicine.  Essential abilities and characteristics required for completion of the MD degree consist of certain minimum physical and cognitive abilities and sufficient mental and emotional stability to assure that candidates for admission, promotion, and graduation are able to complete the entire course of study and participate fully in all aspects of medical training, with or without reasonable accommodation.

Stanford Medicine intends for its graduates to become competent and compassionate physicians who are capable of entering residency training (graduate medical education) and meeting all requirements for medical licensure. Stanford Medicine is committed to educating and training future leaders in medicine, many of whom will pursue careers in academic medicine. For purposes of this document and unless otherwise defined, the term “candidate” means candidates for admission to MD program as well as enrolled medical students who are candidates for promotion and graduation.

The following abilities and characteristics are defined as technical standards, which, in conjunction with academic standards established by the faculty, are requirements for admission, promotion, and graduation. Delineation of technical standards is required for the accreditation of U.S. medical schools by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. Although these standards serve to delineate the necessary physical and mental abilities of all candidates, they are not intended to deter any candidate for whom reasonable accommodation will allow the fulfillment of the complete curriculum. Candidates with questions regarding technical standards are encouraged to contact the Stanford Medicine Student Life Advisor immediately to begin to address what types of accommodation may be considered for development to achieve these standards. Admission to Stanford Medicine is conditional on the candidate’s having the ability to satisfy these technical standards, with or without reasonable accommodation, and results from a process that examines and values all of the skills, attitudes, and attributes of each candidate on a case-by-case basis.

Stanford Medicine has an ethical responsibility for the safety of patients with whom students and graduates will come in contact. Although students learn and work under the supervision of the faculty, students interact with patients throughout their medical school education. Patient safety and well-being are therefore major factors in establishing requirements involving the physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities of candidates for admission, promotion, and graduation. Candidates must have the physical and emotional stamina and capacity to function in a competent manner in the hospital, classroom, and laboratory settings, including settings that may involve heavy workloads, long hours, and stressful situations. Individuals whose performance is impaired by abuse of alcohol or other substances are not suitable candidates for admission, promotion, or graduation.


I. OBSERVATION: Candidates must be able to observe demonstrations and participate in experiments of science, including but not limited to such things as dissection of cadavers; examination of specimens in anatomy, pathology and neuroanatomy laboratories; and microscopic study of microorganisms and tissues in normal and pathologic states. Candidates must be able to accurately observe patients and assess findings. They must be able to obtain a medical history and perform a complete physical examination in order to integrate findings based on these observations and to develop an appropriate diagnostic and treatment plan.

II. COMMUNICATION: Candidates must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with patients, their families, and members of the health care team. They must be able to obtain a medical history in a timely fashion, interpret non-verbal aspects of communication, and establish therapeutic relationships with patients. Candidates must be able to record information accurately and clearly, and communicate effectively in English with other health care professionals in a variety of patient settings.

III. MOTOR FUNCTION: Candidates must possess the capacity to perform physical examinations and diagnostic maneuvers. They must be able to respond to emergency situations in a timely manner and provide general and emergency care. They must adhere to universal precaution measures and meet safety standards applicable to inpatient and outpatient settings and other clinical activities.

IV. INTELLECTUAL-CONCEPTUAL, INTEGRATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE ABILITIES: Candidates must have sufficient cognitive (mental) abilities and effective learning techniques to assimilate the detailed and complex information presented in the medical student curriculum. They must be able to learn through a variety of modalities including, but not limited to, classroom instruction; small group, team and collaborative activities; individual study; preparation and presentation of reports; and use of computer technology. Candidates must be able to memorize, measure, calculate, reason, analyze, synthesize, and transmit information across modalities. They must recognize and draw conclusions about three-dimensional spatial relationships and logical sequential relationships among events. They must be able to formulate and test hypotheses that enable effective and timely problem-solving in diagnosis and treatment of patients in a variety of clinical modalities.

V. BEHAVIORAL AND SOCIAL ATTRIBUTES: Candidates must demonstrate the maturity and emotional stability required for full use of their intellectual abilities. They must accept responsibility for learning, exercising good judgment, and promptly completing all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients. They must understand the legal and ethical aspects of the practice of medicine and function within both the law and ethical standards of the medical profession. Candidates must be able to work effectively, respectfully, and professionally as part of the healthcare team, and to interact with patients, their families, and health care personnel in a courteous, professional, and respectful manner. They must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and long work hours, to function effectively under stress, and to display flexibility and adaptability to changing environments. They must be capable of regular, reliable, and punctual attendance at classes and in regard to their clinical responsibilities. Candidates must be able to contribute to collaborative, constructive learning environments; accept constructive feedback from others; and take personal responsibility for making appropriate positive changes. It is expected that minimum accommodation will be requested with regards to this set of standards.

VI. ETHICAL AND LEGAL STANDARDS: Candidates must meet the legal standards to be licensed to practice medicine in the State of California. As such, candidates for admission must acknowledge and provide written explanation of any felony offense or disciplinary action taken against them prior to matriculation in Stanford Medicine. In addition, should the student be convicted of any felony offense while in medical school, they agree to immediately notify the Student Life Advisor as to the nature of the conviction. Failure to disclose prior or new offenses can lead to disciplinary action by Stanford Medicine that may include dismissal.

Equal Access to the School of Medicine’s Educational Program

Stanford Medicine intends for its students and graduates to become competent and compassionate physicians who are capable of entering residency training (graduate medical education) and meeting all requirements for medical licensure.

Stanford Medicine has an institutional commitment to provide equal educational opportunities for qualified students with disabilities who apply for admission to the MD degree program or who are enrolled as medical students. Stanford Medicine is a leader in student diversity and individual rights, with a strong commitment to full compliance with state and federal laws and regulations (including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and California law (Civil code 51 and 54). A “qualified person with a disability” is an individual with a disability who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in Stanford Medicine’s educational programs, with or without accommodations. As previously noted, admitted candidates with disabilities are reviewed individually, on a case-by-case basis, with a complete and careful consideration of all the skills, attitudes, and attributes of each candidate to determine whether there are any reasonable accommodations or available options that would permit the candidate to satisfy the standards. An accommodation is not reasonable if it poses a direct threat to the health or safety of self and/or others, if making it requires a substantial modification in an essential element of the curriculum, if it lowers academic standards, or poses an undue administrative or financial burden. Except in rare circumstances, the use by the candidate of a third party (e.g., an intermediary) to perform any of the functions described in the Technical Standards set forth above would constitute an unacceptable substantial modification.


As stated above, admission and promotion at Stanford Medicine is conditional on the candidate’s having the willingness and ability to satisfy the technical standards, with or without reasonable accommodation.

Admitted candidates who have a disability and need accommodations should initiate discussions with the Associate Dean for Medical Student Life Advising or the Director of Student Services as soon as the offer of admission is received and accepted. They are the liaison with the University’s Office of Accessible Education (OAE). It is the responsibility of a candidate with a disability to provide sufficiently current information documenting the general nature and extent of his/her disability, and the functional limitations proposed to be accommodated. Evaluating and facilitating accommodation requests is a collaborative effort between the candidate, Stanford Medicine, and the OAE. Stanford Medicine reserves the right to request new or additional information.

Should a candidate have or develop a condition that would place patients, the candidate, or others at risk or that may affect his/her need for accommodation, an evaluation with Stanford Medicine and the OAE may be necessary. As in initial assessments, a complete and careful reconsideration of all the skills, attitudes, and attributes of each candidate will be performed. This includes an assessment of his/her willingness, desire and ability to complete the medical curriculum and fulfill all requirements for medical licensure, and will be informed by the knowledge that students with varied types of disabilities have the ability to become successful medical professionals.