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(Mis-) Representing Yourself on Your CV: Does That “e” Really Matter?

Dr. Bennie Jeng discusses ABO diplomate status
ABO Director Bennie Jeng, MD

By Bennie H. Jeng, MD Director, American Board of Ophthalmology

Professor and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine

As ophthalmologists, we did not get to where we are without excelling in our education and demonstrating scholarship, leadership, and perhaps some obsessive-compulsive tendencies…I’ll be the first to admit that I definitely harbor those last traits I mentioned. Minus that last one though, all of our professional accomplishments are nicely packaged onto our curriculum vitae, or CV as we typically call it. During our educational trek, we add new positions, honors, publications, and activities to this running list so that when needed for applications for our next step, we can readily provide. While sometimes trainees leave residency and fellowship to enter a private practice and feel that their CV is not ever going to be used again, I think everyone has realized that this is simply not true. Whether you are in academics, private practice, industry, or some combination thereof, the CV is in fact needed for many, many things throughout our careers including applying for volunteer faculty positions, licensure, society membership, to name a few: it’s not just for getting into residency and fellowship, or for academic promotions.

While CVs come in all types of formats, as different institutions require different formats for internal consistency, at the heart of it, it is the same information that reflects your accomplishments and who you are. Whether your CV is 2 pages long or 200 pages thick, people do look at it…so be honest and be careful! You’d be surprised (or not) at how things, including CV’s show up in public on websites that can easily be found through quick searches on the internet. So, does your CV accurately reflect who you are?

This question is not just about accurately listing your accolades. Yes, invariably, your CV will be reviewed by someone who has done research in your same niche and will know all of the papers that have been published (or not published in that arena). I highly doubt that anyone reading this posting would ever knowingly falsely list a publication, but it does happen.

More commonly, there are just subtle errors on your CV that point to a lack of attention to detail. Are you a member of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons or of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery? And sometimes, the CV is just not carefully proofread for typographical errors and not formatted neatly.

Does all of this really matter? Absolutely it does. Would you want to hire a partner that has misrepresented themselves on their CV and not have been president of your subspecialty society like they claimed? Again, not likely to happen. But a more likely scenario is: would you trust someone’s claim to attention to detail if they have numerous spelling and formatting errors on their CV? We all joke that one of the telltale signs to watch out for in a medical student applicant is if they can spell “ophthalmologist” correctly, or if they drop that “h” on their application. Why? It’s the attention to detail.

So, that said, are you a “diplomat” of the American Board of Ophthalmology or a “diplomate?” Or both? Or does it matter? What’s the difference? Most diplomats in the United States work in Washington, DC in the State Department,* negotiating on foreign affairs. As such, I would venture to guess that most of you who are reading this are actually “diplomates” (rhymes with “candidates”), which is someone who holds a diploma, such as from the ABO. So, yes, it that “e” DOES matter!

In hopes that some of our younger folks are also reading this, it would be a good time to also define the candidate correctly (since I’ve mentioned it above): you are a candidate once you’ve completed the appropriate medical education and ophthalmic training; you have a valid, unrestricted medical license; and you sign the practice pledge stating your commitment to provide ophthalmic services with compassion, respect for human dignity, and integrity. Candidates, often referred to as being “board eligible,” have 7 years from the completion of residency to become certified as a diplomate (note the “e”).

Does it end there? Absolutely not. Outside of busy practices and academic work, many diplomates give back to the wonderful profession in which we are privileged to practice by serving on various ABO committees including question writing for the OKAP’s or the Written Qualifying Examination or by being an associate examiner for the oral examination. Your volunteerism and involvement is so greatly appreciated, and for those of you who are not volunteers, but are interested, please see our webpage on how to get involved…and then proudly and accurately put this on your CV under that entry that lists you as a diplomate of the ABO!


* Grimes DA. Sabotaging your curriculum vitae. Obstet Gynecol 2010;115:1071-4.


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