Medical degrees from former Soviet countries are under question

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7358.238/b (Published 3 August 2002)
Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:238.3

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Dear Editors,

Dentists in Italy continue to buy their University diplomas from former Soviet Countries, decades after Communism collapsed. [1][2][3]

Original University diplomas and degrees are bought, not forged or fake ones, without any attendance.

Punishments are mild and thousands attempt this “academic shortcut”.

Due to free European employment mobility, thousands could apply for jobs in the U.K., compromising patient safety.

Reviewers and employers in the U.K. must be aware that tens of thousands of fake and bought degrees/diplomas/certificates are in existence in Europe. [4]

GMC officials should also revoke and suspend recognition of all medical diplomas issued by Balkan Universities, from 1990 onwards, until proper international and local investigations manage to eliminate this dangerous phenomenon.

References

[1] http://www.ansa.it/web/notizie/rubriche/english/2013/11/08/Italians-boug...
[2] http://www.codru.eu/en/news/1-latest-news/467-mii-de-italieni-practica-s...
[3] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/may/28/italy-fake-dentists-doctors
[4] http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f4063/rr/656317

Competing interests: None declared

Stavros Saripanidis, Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Private Surgery, Thessaloniki, Greece

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Dear Editors,

Bulgaria still has major problems with corruption and organized crime. [1][2][3]

Bulgaria's own Interior Minister Tzvetan Tzvetanov states that his Country remains a paradise for organized crime and corruption! [4][5][6][2]

Forged University degrees and fake University medical diplomas still constitute a thriving and highly lucrative criminal activity in Bulgaria. [7][8]

Even Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov admits that the problem exists and that he cannot evaluate its extension! [8]

Turkey does not recognize any University degree issued by Bulgarian Universities! [9][10]

GMC officials should also revoke and suspend recognition of all medical diplomas issued by Bulgarian Universities, from 1990 onwards, until proper international and local investigations manage to eliminate this dangerous phenomenon.

References

[1] http://sofiaecho.com/2008/07/18/662218_criminal-network

[2] http://sofiaecho.com/2008/06/30/661701_bulgarias-super-agency-chief-with...

[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/36013

[4] http://www.austriantimes.at/news/Around_the_World/2012-11-07/45280/Bulga...

[5] http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=144708

[6] http://www.focus-fen.net/?id=n291403

[7] http://www.pressonline.com.mk/default.asp?ItemID=CE66265AE143CE40AF97031...

[8] http://www.focus-fen.net/index.php?id=n290397

[9] http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=141661

[10] http://diplomafraud.com/2012/08/07/bulgarian-official-blames-turkey-for-...

Competing interests: None declared

Stavros Saripanidis, Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Private Surgery, Thessaloniki, Greece

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Dear Editors,

Diploma forgery has become a billion pound industry. There exist many accreditation and degree mills in Europe, and the rest of the World, which fabricate tens of thousands of medical degrees every year. [1][2][3][4]

There are many reports of falsified medical diplomas from Romania [5][6][7][8][9][10], Bulgaria [11][12][13], Serbia [13][16], Albania [13], Russia [17][20], Ukraine [18], Georgia [19], France [21], Italy [22], and the U.K. [23][24]

Turkey does not recognize any University degree issued by Bulgarian Universities! [14][15]

If someone cannot pay the sum to receive the degree immediately, the racket offers regular frequency academic studies with enhanced "assistance" during exams, for less money.

Many students, in order to avoid stigma, apply for transfer to an eminent University of another Country, frequently Greece, during the last semester of their studies.
Thus, their degree will appear issued by this other University.

Tens of thousands of Greeks have studied [28] and continue to study [29][30][31] medicine in Romania and Bulgaria, despite healthcare system breakdown in those Countries. [32]

Tens of private Institutions offer immediate admissions in various Universities, without any entrance exams!

Many more Greeks applied for transfer to a Greek University coming from those Countries.

Greek Authorities have failed many times in the past to deal with foreign bribery scandals, academic forgeries, accreditations. [25][26][27]

Students are seen as customers, crash PhD courses are organized, in English, to attract even more foreigners.

One wonders how can a diploma in Psychiatry or Psychology be obtained, in English, without any interaction whatsoever with a patient, due to language barriers!

GMC officials must keep in mind that every foreign bogus medical doctor dreams to relocate and work in the U.K. in order to make his "investment" pay off.

Medical degrees from Greek and East European Universities should be thoroughly scrutinized.

References

[1] http://www.alternet.org/story/155864/does_your_doctor_have_a_fake_degree...

[2] http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/fake-medical-degrees-racket-in-new-de... (50,000 fake medical degrees sold by a single person)

[3] http://www.icde.org/filestore/Resources/Reports/NewTrendsinCredentialAbu... (numerous diploma and accreditation mills in Europe)

[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/jul/05/elearning.politics?INTCMP=SRCH (medical diplomas a few clicks of the mouse away)

[5] http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Claims+of+medical+degrees+being+bought+in+... (medical degrees bought in Romania)

[6] http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/romania-probes-fake-diploma-scam (tens of thousands of fake diplomas bought from Romanian Universities)

[7] http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2003-09-28-fakedegrees_x.htm (lucrative diploma mills in Romania)

[8] http://www.utne.com/politics/degree-mills-ze0z1209zwar.aspx (fake diplomas sold in Romania)

[9] http://www.utne.com/politics/degree-mills-ze0z1209zwar.aspx?page=2 (fake diplomas sold in Romania)

[10] http://www.codru.eu/en/news/1-latest-news/467-mii-de-italieni-practica-s... (thousands of practicing dentists in Italy have bought their degrees from Romania)

[11] http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=139444 (diplomas of major Bulgarian Universities are systematically forged and sold)

[12] http://sofiaecho.com/2008/07/22/662200_candidates-applying-to-open-pharm... (fake Pharmacy diplomas in Bulgaria)

[13] http://www.vmacedonianews.com/2008/01/macedonia-challenges-fake-diplomas... (forged diplomas from Serbian, Albanian and Bulgarian Universities)

[14] http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=141661 (Turkey does not recognize diplomas from Bulgarian Universities)

[15] http://diplomafraud.com/2012/08/07/bulgarian-official-blames-turkey-for-... (Turkey does not recognize diplomas from Bulgarian Universities)

[16] http://www.seeurope.net/?q=node/5738 (fake diplomas to Greek students from Serbia)

[17] http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/fake-diplomas-undermine-russias-educa... (widespread corruption and fake University diplomas in Russia)

[18] http://www.realt5000.com.ua/news/utf/en/1150276/ (fake University diplomas sold in Ukraine)

[19] http://rustavi2.com/news/news_text.php?rec_start=128&rec_start_nav=11&id... (fake University diplomas sold in Georgia)

[20] http://www.iiep.unesco.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Research_Highlights_Cor... (academic fraud, bogus Universities and bought diplomas in ex communist Countries)

[21] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8004911.stm (many Chinese bought degrees in France)

[22] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/dec/16/internationaleducationnews.i... (dentist diplomas sold in Italy)

[23] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-1546609/A-university-of-li... (fake degrees from U.K. Universities)

[24] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1303732/Man-accused-selling-hund... (forged Oxford University degrees sold for 70 pounds!)

[25] http://corruptionbribery.com/2012/06/22/corruption-greeces-failure-to-in... (Greece systematically fails to investigate major foreign bribery scandals)

[26] http://www.grreporter.info/en/everyday_corruption_public_administration/... (diploma forgerers are not punished in Greece)

[27] http://www.doatap.gr/en/dikaiolog.php (Greece recognizes foreign degrees and diplomas only bureaucratically!)

[28] http://www.globalusers.com/corrupt.htm (many doctors in Greece have studied in Bulgaria and Romania)

[29] http://greece.greekreporter.com/2012/09/16/crisis-pushes-greek-students-... (many Greeks choose to study in Bulgaria and Romania)

[30] http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=143288 (many Greeks choose to study in Bulgaria and Romania)

[31] http://www.romania-insider.com/economic-crisis-brings-more-greek-student... (many Greeks choose to study in Bulgaria and Romania)

[32] http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=143234 (Bulgarian cancer patients seek salvation in Turkey)

Competing interests: Dr Stavros Saripanidis turned down an offer to enroll in a Romanian University, without entrance examinations, some decades ago, in post-communist poor Romania. Instead, he gained full scholarships, year after year, and graduated with honours from Italy’s most difficult University Medical School (only 17% would ever graduate). Dr Stavros Saripanidis had to work in Greek public hospitals alongside with many accredited doctors who did not turn down that offer.

Stavros Saripanidis, Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Private Surgery, Thessaloniki, Greece

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7 August 2002

I fully agree that tests must be conducted to check the calibre of doctors coming to India to work, but the question remains is that why doctors from the former Soviet Block are being selectivly targeted? What about the doctors who pay heavy capitation fees or use their contacts in various political parties that control these private institutions? How can we be sure that they are fit to practice in India? Why did the MCI did not forewarn that it is de-recognising the degrees given by these institutions? Why isn't the syllabus of the exam released yet? Why are the names of recommended books not yet published? Is it really fear for the MCI to hold the exam under these circumstances??

Competing interests: None declared

Rajat Kapur

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2 August 2002

I think is fair on the part of Medical Council of India to conduct screening test before giving permanent registration to Overseas trained Medical Graduates (especially from Russia and CIS). It is an international practice to conduct an evaluation (either a test or some form of formal assessment) before provinding medical licence to practice in any country.

In this situation, it is even more important because the medical education system (and language), spectrum of diseases and medical practice in these countries are significantly different from that of India. In fact, in my view, providing medical registration to these graduates without proper assessment is like giving them a 'Licence to Kill'. This would dangerously put Indian public at risk and would certainly be damaging to Indian Health care system in general.

Competing interests: None declared

Anurag Gupta, Registrar

Department of Surgery, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, Australia

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