Shared Guidelines for Professional Conduct

Table of Contents

  1. Our Vision

  2. SMPH Mission and Values

  3. Purpose

  4. Applicability

  5. Guiding Principles and Behaviors

    • Be Accountable: Act with Honesty, Integrity, and Fairness.
    • Commit to Respect, Kindness, Compassion, and Altruism.
    • Demonstrate Innovation and Excellence.
    • Embrace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
  6. Reporting Concerns

  7. Related Policies, Guidelines and Other Resources

University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Shared Guidelines for Professional Conduct

Version 1.0 — Released: Jan. 25, 2021

This document was developed in 2020 by members of the Building Community Shared Understanding Work Team and endorsed by the Building Community Steering Committee. View team and committee members here.

  1. Our Vision

Healthy people. Healthy communities.

  1. SMPH Mission and Values

Together, we are advancing health and health equity through remarkable service to patients and communities, outstanding education, and innovative research.

  • Integrity and Accountability – Every person, every action, every time.
  • Compassion – Treat all with kindness, understanding, and empathy.
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity – Advance health and health equity by respecting the rights, dignity, and differences of all.
  • Excellence – Strive for the very best in all we do.
  1. Purpose

The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) is committed to a learning and working environment based on mutual respect. Because our work ultimately focuses on improving the health and well-being of others, we have a unique responsibility to ensure that all of the members of our community treat each other with the respect due colleagues.

These Guidelines are created through the SMPH’s Building Community program. This is intended to be a living document that provides overarching guidance on the shared responsibility of everyone at SMPH and their partnering institutions to act with the highest levels of respect, integrity and accountability—and according to appropriate ethical and legal standards—in their daily activities inside and outside SMPH.

These Guidelines do not provide specific direction for every situation, but instead offer broad expectations that reflect existing SMPH, UW–Madison or UW Health policies and procedures, as well as state and federal laws.

If you have questions or concerns about the best ways to uphold these guidelines, please seek advice from your peers, mentors, or leaders. You may also contact Building Community at

Finally, we recognize that truly embodying these Guidelines is a journey, not a destination. We encourage you to seek training that supports lifelong learning, growth and the pursuit of the ideals described here.

  1. Applicability

These Guidelines apply to everyone—faculty, staff, learners, volunteers, observers and visitors—regardless of role or employee category, title, track or rank. It applies to those with whom we work, care for and serve; those who participate in the education of learners in all settings; and those who participate in research for the betterment of the State of Wisconsin and beyond. It applies to all individuals who are members of the integrated daily operations teams of SMPH, UW Health and all partner institutions.

Organizational leaders and management-level personnel have the additional expectation of modeling the behaviors described in these Guidelines for the benefit of all.

  1. Guiding Principles and Behaviors

Be Accountable: Act with Honesty, Integrity and Fairness

Be individually and collectively responsible for our work.

Become familiar with and recognize the importance of the policies and procedures that apply to one’s position and duties, and comply with them in letter and in spirit. Conduct all research according to policies and procedures outlined by the SMPH, the university and the research sponsor. Comply with all contractual, grant and other business policies and laws at the school, university, state and federal levels. Create and maintain records that conform to all applicable laws and professional and ethical standards.

Protect health, safety and the environment.

To ensure that all members of the SMPH community are protected from health risks and unsafe conditions, comply with all policies and laws that govern occupational and patient health and safety. Comply with all applicable environmental laws, including obtaining necessary licenses, permits and approvals, and using proper procedures and controls when storing and handling hazardous materials. Strive to reduce the environmental footprint of the SMPH community by using resources carefully and consciously.

Uphold information confidentiality, privacy and security.

Use institutional information technology resources only for authorized purposes, and do so responsibly, ethically and lawfully. Access and use protected information, including protected health information as defined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), only to the extent necessary to conduct one’s duties, and in accordance with all applicable policies, procedures and laws. Protect all intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, from unauthorized use.

Do the right things at the right time and place.

Support the mission of the SMPH, and by extension, the university and the health system, in all actions. Carry out all activities in accordance with the highest standards of professional ethics, academic integrity and education program honor codes. Conduct all business with patients, payors, vendors, competitors and the research and academic community with honesty and integrity.

Disclose and manage outside activities.

The importance of outside activities at UW–Madison is captured in the Wisconsin Idea, where knowledge gained from academic enterprise is shared to benefit society. Faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in outside activities, share expertise, and transfer intellectual property to the private sector. When participating in outside activities, actual or perceived conflicts of interest may arise. Recognize and acknowledge these conflicts and be transparent in all actions and relationships. Do not use one’s position for personal benefit. Comply with appropriate guidelines for reporting and disclosing potential conflicts — in particular those that involve significant financial gains — and, when appropriate, manage them in accordance with appropriate UW–Madison policies, such as the Conflicts of Interest policy.

Protect and steward resources.

Our financial assets, physical property, intellectual property and employee effort are essential resources for furthering our mission. Demonstrate fiscal stewardship by using those resources prudently and with concern for health, safety and the environment. Protect all resources against loss, theft, misuse, damage or destruction.

Follow University and state policies on political activity.

Be an informed, engaged private citizen, but understand and follow the University of Wisconsin System’s policy and state laws on political campaign and lobbying activities. This includes not engaging in political campaign activities during work time, not using state resources to engage in political campaign activities, and not soliciting contributions or services for a political purpose from other university employees while they are engaged in their official duties.

In addition, be aware of the ethical and practical consequences of political campaign involvement, even if it is on your own time. Use caution when using your official title, and when using your name, be clear that you are acting solely in your role as a private citizen.

Share public information appropriately.

Work through appropriate institutional communications channels when releasing information to the media or the public, or when responding to requests from reporters.

Comply with institutional policies on use of social media. When sharing information through personal social media accounts, be professional, use good ethical judgment, and respect all privacy laws. Recognize that personal social media postings may reflect back on the institution and potentially result in unintended consequences to one’s professional career.

Cooperate with requests for information.

Cooperate fully and respond appropriately to any requests for public information, including audits, inquiries or investigations, as directed by institutional attorneys, internal auditors or compliance personnel.

Commit to Respect, Kindness, Compassion, and Altruism

Treat everyone with respect.

Respect for others is at the heart of professionalism; it honors individual worth and dignity, and extends to all relationships and forms of contact. Treat everyone in our community with kindness, compassion and a spirit of altruism. When conflicts arise, resolve them with a spirit of civility. Harassment or mistreatment of any kind is not tolerated.

Engage, listen and communicate.

In all interactions, engage, actively listen, encourage feedback and respond humanely to concerns. Choose the best way to deliver timely and meaningful information. Recognize the emotional, personal, family, and cultural factors that individuals bring to every situation.

In the clinical setting, remain aware of how those individual factors influence patients’ rights and choices of medical care. Provide appropriate empathy for and relief of pain, discomfort, and anxiety.

Demonstrate Innovation and Excellence

Embody the Wisconsin Idea.

One of the deepest traditions at the University of Wisconsin is the “Wisconsin Idea”: the principle that the university should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom. This philosophy influences the SMPH from its core.

By embracing the Wisconsin Idea, and demonstrating innovation and excellence across all of our mission areas—education, research, patient care and community service—we can improve the health and quality of life for the citizens of Wisconsin and beyond.

Deliver education programs for our statewide campus.

Develop and deliver outstanding educational programs that inspire future and current clinicians and researchers—from all backgrounds—to advance knowledge, seek breakthrough treatments and improve the health of patients and communities in Wisconsin and beyond. Find new ways to support learners and teachers across our statewide campus. Utilize state-of-the-art technology and clinical training facilities for the benefit of learners across professions and at all skill levels.

Conduct research on critical health needs and disseminate statewide.

Conduct innovative research on the most promising ways to promote health and to prevent, detect and treat illness in people and populations. Engage with communities in research as a catalyst to improving health. Embrace collaboration as a means of accelerating discovery. Support the movement of transformational discoveries and technologies to the market through effective industry partnerships.

Improve the quality of care for individuals and populations.

Find new and better ways to improve quality of care and provide patients with the best possible experience and outcomes. Treat patients and families with kindness and empathy; involve them as partners in their care decisions; and honor their rights to privacy, confidentiality and dignity. Create and deliver programs that support the health and wellness of individuals and populations in Wisconsin and beyond. Engage populations with respect, openness and cultural humility.

Promote the health of our communities.

Promote health and well-being in the communities we serve through environmental sustainability, policy advocacy, health care delivery and public health. Recognize that gaps in health equity exist, provide patient care to underserved populations and advocate for strengthening the physician and public health workforce.

Cultivate health and well-being in our healthcare providers, researchers, staff and learners.

Recognize that our abilities to demonstrate excellence and innovation are intimately tied to our own optimal functioning. Cultivate health and well-being within ourselves through healthy interactions, a respectful workplace, and a commitment to ongoing assessment and continual improvement of work-life balance.

Embrace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion  

Ensure an environment free of discrimination.

Ensure an environment free from all forms of discrimination and harassment, including on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender and/or gender identity or expression, marital or parental status, national origin, citizenship status, veteran or military status, age, disability or any other legally protected status.

Support the advancement of all.

Value the diverse backgrounds, identities, trajectories and talents of each individual in our community. Work to understand one’s own conscious and unconscious biases, how they influence one’s behavior and how to overcome those limitations. Respond to others with an active appreciation for multiple points of view and experiences that may differ from one’s own. Commit to the pursuit of equity and humility, and practice it by actively supporting the development and advancement of all members of our community. Listen to all voices and foster a culture of inclusion.

Advocate for social justice.

Recognize how structural racism affects the health of individuals and communities, and how it shapes the experiences of people of color throughout the SMPH community. Speak out against behaviors that perpetuate racism, stereotypes, bias or hate. Strive for justice through one’s individual work and through improvements to existing systems of patient care, education and research. 

  1. Reporting Concerns

All SMPH community members are responsible for upholding the Shared Guidelines for Professional Conduct. If you experience or witness behavior contrary to the expectations set forth in this document, there are several possible options. In general, next steps depend on:

  • what has occurred
  • the role(s) of those involved – student, SMPH employee, health system employee, etc.
  • whether support is needed for informal resolution
  • whether formal reporting is being pursued, such as filing a complaint or grievance
  • whether anonymity is desired

For an overview of possible options, visit the Reporting Concerns – Shared Guidelines for Professional Conduct supporting material.

The SMPH Employee Relations team is available to discuss matters involving SMPH employees and can be contacted at For matters involving SMPH learners, refer to information available at

Related Policies, Guidelines and Other Resources

University of Wisconsin System and Board of Regents 

University of Wisconsin – Madison

UW School of Medicine and Public Health

UW Health

Resources available on the UW Health U-Connect intranet (requires login or VPN access)

National Institutes of Health