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Taking a medical leave


jlc11010
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If I had a medical reason that would prevent me from being in school and performing my responsibilities as a TA, how would that work?  Would I lose funding?  I just got accepted to a program with fellowship the first year, then TA for the next 5 years.  It's a PhD program.  I am in remission for a type of cancer which is very treatable, there is like a 25% that I will have to get chemotherapy sometime in the next 5 years or so.  The treatment takes 3 consecutive months.  Does anyone have experience with anything like this and what happens?

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I can't speak from experience, but I wanted to say two things: (1) I'm extremely sorry that you're going through this. Cancer has affected many of my family members, and it's devastating. (2) The best advice I can give would be to check the handbook for your program and for the school at the university. Mine, for example, has a section on taking a leave for a year and how this affects you individually.

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Thanks for your concern, I really don't have it as bad as most.  I had stage 1 testicular cancer (like tom green), and it is essentially curable with 12 weeks of chemo if it comes back.  I didn't even think of looking for a handbook, but I found it now and says they allow a leave of absence for up to 12 months which is great.  Probably won't every come up, but that makes me feel better.

 

 

Thanks,

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Sorry that you have to go through this! Most leaves of absences of this kind do not come with funding, unfortunately, so unless you have a special offer or contract that says otherwise, if you miss a semester where you are supposed to be TAing and your funding is tied to your TAship, you may not be able to get the funding that comes from TAing. The leave of absence grants you permission to not do the work (and not get punished for it via things like not getting a position when you come back) but unless you are very lucky, these leaves are not paid. 

 

However, if your funding is more RA-based, then your supervisor may choose to continue to pay you while you are away. One solution that might work for you is if you are partly paid through a TAship as well as an RAship, you might be able to arrange it so that if you have to go through chemo, those months would be on a RAship and you would do a TAship another semester.

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This is probably going to sound crazy but, you could probably work out something similar to what pregnant grad students work out. That is, they get a lighter TA assignment that they can do partially or completely from home so they aren't earning no money at all while on leave in the late stages of pregnancy or while on FMLA. It might be done unofficially in your department but it is a possibility in many places.

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