Saturday, July 24, 2010

When doctors plagiarize

The study on plagiarism in medical residency essays by Scott Segal et al. in Annals of Internal Medicine continues to attract attention.

In a post by Megan Brooks titled Level of Plagiarism in Residency Application Essays "Worrisome", one has the following text:

Among all 4975 essays screened, 259 (5.2%) contained evidence of plagiarism (95% confidence [CI], 4.6% - 5.9%). Among 3561 essays by American applicants, 65 (1.8%) contained plagiarized material (95% CI, 1.4 - 2.3). Among 1414 essays by non-American applicants, 194 (13.7%) did (95% CI, 12.0 - 15.6).

The frequency of plagiarism among non-American applicants was 7.6 times higher than among American applicants!

Separately, IPBiz notes that the overall percentage of copying found by Segal [5.2%] is remarkably similar to the 5% number found in a study published on March 7, 2007 by UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, for plagiarism in university applications. [See the 2007 IPBiz post: Is everyone burning their pajamas at age 8? ]

Brooks also included:

Other possible factors, according to Dr. Segal, include the "alarming proportion" of young people who do not view copying material from the Internet in the same light as copying from printed sources; cultural differences in countries that might not view copying in the same light as do Western academics; the relatively low risk (until now) of being caught; and "bad advice in the application process from advisors who do not appreciate the seriousness of plagiarism, or even worse, from unscrupulous corporate services catering to applicants."

Could it be that "unscrupulous corporate services" are used more frequently by non-American applicants for purposes of essay writing AND that the "unscrupulous corporate services" are selling the same essay to many applicants? Are many applicants discussing "burning their pajamas at age 8 with their chemistry set"?

Sandra Yin in an article titled Plagiarism: What will doctors who faked their pasts lie about in the future?

In some cases, the copied material would involve a supposedly heartfelt anecdote about patients--a form of fakery that strikes me as even more egregious, because it seems to pass someone else's experience off as one's own.

Of passing someone else's experience off as one's own, one wonders what Sandra thought about Joe Biden, who passed off Neil Kinnock's life experiences as Biden's, even though the copied life experiences of Kinnock did NOT apply to Biden. Similarly, how about Katie Couric's library card, wherein Katie copied someone else's story of a first library card as her own?

Sandra concludes her post:

The researchers note that plagiarism covers a multitude of sins, from poor documentation and proofreading to outright, premeditated fraud. It's even possible the applicants had cryptomnesia, or hidden memory, and weren't aware that they were copying "remembered content" from another source.

Fast forward a few years. What happens when a doctor blanks out while writing a prescription or speculating on possible diagnoses or coming up with a treatment plan? Are these applicants future fraudsters in the making?
Even before entering residency programs, they're passing themselves off as someone else. If they're doing that now, could Medicare fraud be far behind?

Hmmm, why not ask Joe Biden, currently Vice-President of the United States (who plagiarized an essay at Syracuse Law School) or Glenn Poshard, president of SIU (who plagiarized parts of his Ph.D. thesis at SIU)?

***Related material-->

Abstract of Segal paper:

Ann Intern Med. 2010 Jul 20;153(2):112-20.
Plagiarism in residency application essays.
Segal S, Gelfand BJ, Hurwitz S, Berkowitz L, Ashley SW, Nadel ES, Katz JT.

"The top's cheating to thrive, the bottom's cheating to survive"

What Forbes needs to learn from Adam Wheeler
, which illustrates the utter naivete of a
Forbes article in view of both the Adam Wheeler scandal and the Segal paper in Annals of Internal Medicine, 2010 Jul 20;153(2):112-20.

**In passing, feedly


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