School of Medicine, Office of the Student Ombudsman

Letter from the Duke University School of Medicine Ombudsperson

The School of Medicine created the Office of the Ombudsman in 2008. This office offers confidential and anonymous support and advocacy specifically to the medical students at Duke.

The Office of the Ombudsman addresses student concerns about how and when to approach existing resources (Office of Institutional Equity, course directors, advisory deans, Practice Faculty) if or when they feel mistreated or have a conflict with another member of the School of Medicine community.

The role of the ombudsman is to investigate and facilitate resolution of allegations by medical students of perceived unfair, inappropriate, discriminating or harassing treatment (behavior) by faculty, staff, administrators, or fellow students. This includes violations of University policy of equal treatment without regard to race, creed, religion, color, veteran status, sex, sexual preference, age, national or ethnic origin, or handicap, as well as violations of our own school’s “Compact Between Teachers and Learners of Medicine.”

The responsibilities of the Office of the Ombudsman include:

  1. Providing neutral safe and confidential environment to talk
  2. Listening to concerns and complaints and discuss appropriate options
  3. Helping to evaluate those options
  4. Assisting students to resolve those options
  5. Mediating conflicts, convene meetings, and engage in “shuttle diplomacy.”
  6. Referring students to appropriate campus (Medical School) resources
  7. Providing information about university (Medical School) resources


The ombudsperson does not constitute notice to the institution with regard to grievances or complaints and does not:

  1. Adjudicate or participate in formal university grievances
  2. Determine guilt of any party in a dispute
  3. Get involved in any formal litigation or testify in court
  4. Provide legal advice
  5. Assign sanctions on individuals
  6. Replace any official university office, department or process
  7. Keep records of students and/or conversation.


Dean Andrews appointed Jean Spaulding, M.D. to be the Ombudsman. Dr. Spaulding has a long and accomplished history at the School of Medicine. She is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a Trustee of the Duke Endowment and a graduate of the school. She helped to spearhead the School’s Open Access Curriculum. Dr. Spaulding has a deep and long-standing interest in the health and welfare of medical students and a wealth of experience helping people in navigating complex interpersonal situations.

To contact the Ombudsman for medical students with a concern you would like to discuss, you may simply: email ombudsman@mc.duke.edu or calling Dr. Spaulding’s office at (919) 668-3326.

In addition to the School of Medicine Ombudsman, students may contact the Duke Student Ombudsperson for concerns involving members of the wider University community. His name is Dr. John Blackshear, jbshear@duke.edu or (919) 684-5917 or 919-684-4039.