Fraud and Deception During Residency Application: A Med Student's Worst Nightmare

Ryan Syrek, MA


March 28, 2019

Medscape: What can we learn from this unique situation?

Ahmad: I've had the opportunity to share my story with some medical students with whom I've had a chance to work as a resident over the past couple of years. I certainly don't want to instill paranoia or heighten anxiety even more than already exists for many of the folks who are going through the Match process. I think that this case may have been an outlier.

So the advice I would give is to be careful until that rank list deadline is finalized. Don't show your hand to most people on how you plan on ranking programs. Maybe be a little bit more guarded about that information until after the rank lists are finalized.

Medscape: Are there any broader concerns that this incident made you think about?

Crapanzano: Applicants are feeling more and more pressure. A recently published study showed that most applicants wish that, after their interview, there was no more communication with the programs. They feel a certain amount of pressure to say such things as they're going to rank a program highly or whatever. They don't want that added pressure.

The NRMP has been a little stricter about limiting postinterview communication. This year, I made a real point of limiting postinterview communication with applicants. I do think that the postinterview communication process should probably be limited on both sides, because it leads both sides to feel the pressure to make promises that aren't fair or accurate.

Ahmad: To prevent something like this from happening again, all communication between applicants and programs should occur through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) portal. Because in all honesty, it's so easy to make up an email address in somebody's name and start emailing folks, saying that you want to withdraw from a program. Most of the time, folks don't have a relationship with some of the programs that they've interviewed at. So programs may not think twice to either remove them or lower them from their rank list. I think the thing that stood out to me was that all communication should happen through the ERAS portal to minimize the chances of this happening to somebody else.

Crapanzano: Also, this doesn't have anything specifically to do with this situation, but just with the overall Match anxiety: I think that, in the bigger sense, the deans of medical schools need to help cut through some of the hysteria that has built in the applicants. The Association of American Medical Colleges has a really nice new section on their website. On the basis of your STEP scores, they predict how many programs you should apply to, making students aware of that so that they aren't over the top in their application process would be one idea.

In general, I'd like to think that the vast majority of people who end up in medicine by the Match process are ethical. Every once in a while, though, I guess someone gets through.

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