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Misrepresentation Of Scholarly Works By Integrated Plastic Surgery Applicants: Is It Really An Issue?
James Phillips, MD, Margaret A. Murphy, Steven J. Kasten, MD.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


PURPOSE: We sought to investigate the authenticity of claims of impropriety amongst residency applicants. Many authors report alarming rates of false or questionable claims of scholarly achievement amongst residency applicants, including Chung et al., who recently reported 38% of publications from applicants to their plastic surgery program in the 2009 match could not be verified. We simultaneously conducted a similar investigation from an older data set, with the hypothesis that the percentage of citations claimed by many authors to be false was erroneously high due to failure of an adequate search or prolonged time from submission to publication for many journals.
METHODS: Applications received via the Electronic Residency Application System to the University of Michigan Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency Program for the 2007 match season were reviewed two years after being submitted by the applicants. Scholarly works listed as published, accepted, or in press, including journal articles, abstracts and book chapters, were investigated. Those listed as submitted were excluded. An exhaustive search was conducted that included Google, Ovid MedSearch, PubMed, physical search for the journals in our medical library, and phone calls to regional societies.
RESULTS: Our sample represented 60% of all applicants in the 2007 integrated plastic surgery match. 102 applicants cited 342 scholarly works. Of these, 311 (91%) were verified. Of the remaining 9%, 20 citations (6%) by 9 applicants (4%) could not be verified, and 11 (3%) by 9 applicants (4%) were confirmed as fraudulent or false.
CONCLUSION: The majority (91-97%) of integrated plastic surgery applicants are truthful regarding scholarly achievement. Some citations that couldn’t be confirmed even by our exhaustive search may not be false; we could confidently say only 3% didn’t exist. Listing a citation as “submitted,” when it has been, is not dishonest. It is understood that not all submissions are ultimately published. We should give applicants the benefit of the doubt, and the opportunity to confirm their claims when we cannot. It is likely that reported data on impropriety in applicants to other specialties are erroneously high.


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