Dean accused of plagiarizing convocation speech

Students searching on smart-phones found near-identical speech

Dean Philip Baker of the University of Alberta has apologized to medical students after he lifted the “theme and content” of his address to the graduating class on Friday evening from another doctor’s speech. Those students are now accusing him of plagiarism, which is — ironically — the type of academic crime that would have prevented them from graduating.

Philip’s speech included many of the same type of anecdotes that Dr. Atul Gawande’s speech to Stanford University students in 2010 included, which graduates like Sarah Fung recognized during the speech. Their suspicions were confirmed when they checked The New Yorker magazine’s website using their smart-phones, reports the Edmonton Journal. Philip defended himself to students in a letter obtained by the newspaper, in which he said that Gawande’s words “inspired me and resonated with my experiences,” and that “the personal medical traumas which I detailed were wholly genuine.”

“We were embarrassed and disappointed to find that Dean Baker had given a wonderful speech at our graduation banquet without attributing it to the original author,” Brittany Barber, president of the graduating class told the Journal. “People should know that we do not stand for academic dishonesty and our deepest wish is that this incident does not reflect poorly on the integrity of our class, the medical school, and ultimately the university.”

Baker, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, has published more than 200 scientific articles and 14 books. A spokesperson for the university, Deb Hammacher, said there will be an investigation. Baker has apologized to Gawande.

To read Cape Breton University professor and On Campus blogger Todd Pettigrew’s commentary on the situation, please click here.