Daniel Mason enrolled at the Boston University School of Medicine in 1994 after earning his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College. Approving his application, BU entered Mason in a rigorous study program that was set to license him as a doctor upon his graduation this May.
Nowhere on that application, however, was it disclosed that Mason was a convicted felon.
Now, the 35-year-old Mason awaits trial for the March 2 shootings of Jamaica Plain residents Gene Yazgur, 28, and Michael Lenz, 25. Mason, who pleaded not guilty in his arraignment last Wednesday at Roxbury District Court, is suspected of entering the roommates’ apartment and shooting both victims, killing Lenz and leaving Yazgur comatose.
Mason’s criminal record prior to his arrest this month included a 1993 conviction for breaking into his girlfriend’s house and threatening her life as well as an arrest for a dispute over the use of weights in a gym while attending Dartmouth. Despite his record, School of Medicine officials claim to have had no knowledge of Mason’s legal history.
“The Boston University School of Medicine administration was not aware of any prior legal incidents or issues involving this student,” said Director of Corporate Communications Ellen Berlin in a statement released last week.
The American Medical College Application Service, a centralized application processing service that creates the application used by 116 medical schools, including BU, asks applicants about conduct violations in previous undergraduate or medical programs. The application does not, however, include any questions regarding an applicant’s criminal record.
While some schools require the completion of a supplemental application to the AMCAS form, Boston University does not. At Harvard University Medical School, a supplement exists that requires applicants to disclose if they have ever been convicted of a felony.
Supplements to the AMCAS application ask applicants to provide information specific to the concerns of the individual medical school. After a three-year process to review their application service, the American Association of Medical Colleges, from which the AMCAS is run, consolidates the information most commonly requested by these supplements into their application.
“The AMCAS application is designed to facilitate the procedure for the applicant and the schools,” said Dr. Pamela Cranston, associate vice president of the AAMC. “It’s easier for everyone to have one application; AMCAS is about efficiency.”
The newest edition of the AMCAS, which will be released exclusively online for the first time on April 1 to students entering medical school in the fall of 2002, will include a section asking students to provide information on the existence of a criminal record. The application will ask applicants directly, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Applicants who click “Yes” must provide an explanation of their conviction before being allowed to move to the next question.
Each medical school considers different factors when selecting an applicant, and some do not wish to know about an applicant’s criminal record, Cranston said.
To suit these varying needs, the new online application provides each medical school with the ability to choose what information they wish to look at when selecting applicants, screening sections of the application in which the school is uninterested.
“The new system has the capability for schools to ‘hide’ application data that they don’t want to see,” Cranston explained. “In the past, the paper application did not permit the screening of that data. What we’ve done is to give schools a way to manage the question [of an applicant’s criminal record].”