Shamed Birmingham medic copied material from Wikipedia to gain qualification
By Jonny Greatrex
June 26, 2012 :46, 24 OCT 2012
A PSYCHIATRIST copied material from Wikipedia and stole ideas from a student’s academic paper to gain the professional qualification she so badly wanted.
Shamed medic Aliveni Ramanujam was suspended after being caught out TWICE while doing a distance learning course at the University of Gloucestershire.
Dr Ramanujam, who worked with mental health patients in Birmingham and Solihull, was called in by her tutors who were concerned by the shoddy essay she submitted.
They warned her not to use other people’s work as her own, explained how she should correctly reference academic sources, and ordered her to do the work again.
But the second essay contained more material copied from the online website.
The General Medical Council hauled Dr Ramanujam in front of a disciplinary hearing, who decided her misconduct meant her fitness to practise had been impaired.
They imposed a 12-month suspension.
“This is a serious case of dishonesty where you clearly knew what you were doing,” the GMC panel told her. “We consider that such behaviour on your part demonstrates a complete lack of probity.
“The panel has determined to suspend your registration for a period of 12 months.”
At the hearing in Manchester last month the GMC heard how the psychiatrist was enrolled on the Certificate of Professional Studies in Awareness of Cognitive Behavioural Practice course at the University of Gloucestershire in September 2008.
The following July she submitted her coursework for the qualification.
Tutors soon realised that parts of the work had been copied from the Royal College of Psychiatrists website, and from a student’s paper submitted to the University of Birmingham in June 2009.
They called her for a meeting to the discuss the assignment. Dr Ramanujam said she had made genuine mistakes and had not understood how to correctly reference her work.
But when her second attempt was examined in October 2009, it included the same plagiarised material and new material she had copied from Wikipedia. The GMC panel said her behaviour after she had been caught out was ‘dishonest and misleading’.
“At first there may have been some naivety or inexperience on your part as to referencing sources in academic assessments,” they said. “We noted that you were given a plethora of material, both in the form of e-learning and face-to-face sessions, on referencing. The panel does not accept that you did not understand how to properly reference your assignment.
“Taking academic material belonging to another student, without proper reference to your source, is a serious matter. You stole the intellectual property of a student who submitted the Birmingham paper, and you didn’t even acknowledge it.”
Defence counsel David Morris argued that a suspension from the profession would mean Dr Ramanujam would lose her job.
He provided references from colleagues at the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust, who said she was reliable and hard-working.
They added that her ability to speak several languages meant she had benefited her local community.
But the panel ruled: “We have balanced your own interests against the public’s interest. We accept you are a good and competent young doctor with useful services which you can offer to the public and, in particular, to your local community.
“But we are satisfied that, given the mitigation in this case, a period of suspension would send out a strong message to the profession that such misconduct is serious.”
When approached by the Sunday Mercury on Friday, Dr Ramanujam said she had never intended to cheat and had been left devastated by the ban.
“I come a different academic background because I am from India,” she explained. “There, we are very exam-focussed and so I was not familiar with the procedure in the UK for doing this kind of work.
“I admitted I made a mistake but I didn’t realise the magnitude of what I had done. I am devastated, it has been so stressful and I had to resign my job.
“We’ve spent £10,000 on legal fees, I simply cannot afford to appeal the decision.”