Reuters Health recently published an eye-opening article by Kerry Grens detailing two new studies about the accuracy of residents’ CVs. The findings? Many residents lie (or grossly embellish) on their physician CVs.

One study was led by Dr. Michael Frumovitz of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the other was led by Dr. Anne-Marie Amies Oelschlager at the University of Washington.

You can read the full article here, but below is a quick rundown of the findings:

1) As quoted in the article, Dr. Frumovitz’s team collected “258 applications to a fellowship program at MD Anderson in gynecologic oncology from 2004 to 2008.”

148 doctors indicated that they published research findings, but the team could not find publications for 44 of those applicants. That’s a whopping 30%.

2) Dr. Amies Oelschlager’s team reviewed “two years’ worth of applications to a residency program in obstetrics and gynecology.”

They reviewed 937 applications, and 136 of those claimed to have published studies that could not be found (15%). Furthermore, 62 applicants claimed studies were peer reviewed, when in actuality, they weren’t.

Both leaders of the studies said they hoped the misrepresentations were honest mistakes, but were well aware that they could have been blatant padding.

Needless to say, the findings are quite disturbing. Lying on a CV (or even embellishing just a teensy bit) is incredibly unfavorable, no matter your industry. However, it’s especially frowned upon in the medical profession.

If someone thinks it’s OK to embellish on a physician CV, what’s to stop him or her from embellishing while explaining a misstep during a surgical procedure?

It all comes down to integrity. The bottom line? A physician CV should always be error-free.

Most of us probably wish our CVs carried more weight… that’s human nature. We want to be respected and praised. We might feel the need to tell “little white lies” in order to land a job or a prestigious position.

But it’s always a bad idea. Even if an embellished physician CV gets you a job, it doesn’t mean your employer won’t uncover the truth (and fire you) later on. There are also serious legal implications.

If you feel like your physician CV is lacking, you should definitely check out our post from a couple of weeks ago: Physician CV Writing Tips: How to Beef Up a Skinny CV. It details several ways you can make your accomplishments and career trajectory sound extra-impressive… without embellishing.

One key takeaway from the Reuters article is that if you’re going to list a study as “peer-reviewed,” be sure that’s an honest representation. “Peer-reviewed” carries a lot of weight and is an impressive distinction, so you should only use the label if you’re absolutely sure of its accuracy.

Finally, here’s a good rule of thumb to remember when you’re crafting your physician CV: pretend that you’re going to hand it off to a seasoned private investigator once you’re finished. It’s his or her job to ensure the complete accuracy of every piece of information.

Does your physician CV pass the private investigator’s test? If so, you’re ready to start sending it to employers.

What do you think about the study detailed in Reuters? Do you think there should be punitive action for those who lie or embellish on a physician CV?      


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Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, Guthrie Clinic supports “The Dose with Dr. Goodhook” and is partnering with Adventures in Medicine to create an open, inspiring and insightful community for residents and physicians. Click here to learn more about ways that Guthrie Clinic is making practice purposeful.