August 10, 2012

As this is the personal statement writing season I wanted to highlight something that is essential that you avoid in your application.

Time Magazine has suspended a columnist for plagiarizing portions of an article published. This columnist is very high profile and has been suspended from CNN as well. In my time in academics I have seen plagiarism on personal statements, fake publications in applications, fake letters of recommendation and false degrees (an MPH in one case).

Plagiarism is defined as representing the work of others as your own. Plagiarism is common in residency applications and has been studied in residency application essays. That study found plagiarism was more common in IMG applications.

Plagiarism exists in applications for medical school, electives, residency, fellowship and from applicants for research fellowship. If a candidate has plagiarized content on their application it reflects poorly on the candidate no matter how good the rest of the application is. When a candidate is being seriously considered the application is read very carefully. Listed publications are checked and the personal statements and content is examined for plagiarism.

I want the IMG community to realize that copying personal statements or portions of personal statements that you find online or personal statements from friends or colleagues will ruin your chances of a competitive residency or beyond. Everything on your application must be original and truthful as it will be examined very carefully. I encourage you to model the structure of your statement and application on the application guide from the University of Chicago but do not copy the content as you may regret it. Please be honest and truthful in your application.

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