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Misrepresentation of Research Publications Among Orthopedic Surgery Fellowship Applicants: A Comparison With Documented Misrepresentations in Other Fields

Patel, Manish V., MD; Pradhan, Ben B., MD, MSE; Meals, Roy A., MD

doi: 10.1097/01.BRS.0000051923.25784.CD
Surgery Residents and Fellow Applications

Study Design. A retrospective study was used to review fellowship applications over 3 years.

Objectives. To assess the prevalence of research misrepresentation in orthopedic fellowship applications, and to compare such activity between subspecialties (e.g., spine, sports, hand).

Summary of Background Data. Competition for orthopedic surgery fellowships is intense. The applicant pool includes orthopedic, plastic, and general surgeons, as well as neurosurgeons. Residency and fellowship training programs in other disciplines have documented shocking levels of misrepresentation in the curriculum vitae of prospective applicants. However, no study has looked at orthopedic residents applying for subspecialty fellowship programs.

Methods. A retrospective analysis investigated 280 applications for fellowship positions in the department of orthopedic surgery at the authors’ academic institution from 1996 to 1998 inclusively. To allow for press and publication delays, a minimum 24-month follow-up period was instituted. The listings of applicants’ research publications were analyzed for evidence of misrepresentation through an exhaustive literature search. Only the most obvious confirmable discrepancies were labeled as misrepresentations. The results then were compared with those found in studies conducted in other fields: gastroenterology fellowship, emergency medicine residency, pediatric residency, dermatology residency, orthopedic residency, and medical faculty applications.

Results. Among 280 (54%) applicants for orthopedic surgery fellowships, 151 claimed journal publications. It was found that 16 (10.6%) of these 151 applicants had misrepresented their citations. This rate was highest in spine fellowship applicants (20%). However, considering the numbers available, this was not significantly different among the various subspecialty fellowship applicants (P > 0.1). In addition, various demographic data did not correlate with the rate of misrepresentation (P > 0.1). These results are comparable with those reported in other medical fields (P > 0.1).

Conclusions. Misrepresentation occurs in orthopedic fellowship applications at a rate comparable with that observed in other fields. This rate is not different among the various subspecialties in orthopedics. Policies that may lessen the incidence of falsification on curriculum vitae should be instituted in an attempt to curb such activity.

From the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California.

Presented in part at the annual AAOS meeting, 1998.

Acknowledgment date: May 7, 2002.

First revision date: August 13, 2002.

Acceptance date: August 30, 2002.

Device status/drug statement: The submitted manuscript does not contain information about medical devices or drugs.

Conflict of interest: No funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

Address reprint requests to Ben B Pradhan, MD MSE, 3250 Sawtelle Boulevard, Apartment 302, Los Angeles, CA 90066. E-mail:

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.