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The Medical Expert Curriculum Vitae in Malpractice Litigation

by Edward J. Kroger, MD, JD on January 31st, 2012

In the legal and business worlds, impressive resumes are frequently one page long. The resume is a summary of skills, experience and education. In medical malpractice litigation, you will usually be provided with not the opposing party expert’s resume, but with a curriculum vitae (CV). Instead of one or two pages, you may receive CVs that are anywhere from 10 to 200 pages or longer. A CV is a more detailed description of an individual’s educational background, teaching and research experience, grants, publications, awards, honors, and affiliations.  CVs are used when applying for academic, education, scientific or research positions or when researchers are applying for fellowships or grants.

In reviewing a CV prior to deposing a medical expert, here are some things to look for:

1. Up-to-Date. Given the length and competitiveness of academic CVs, many medical experts update their CV monthly or even more frequently. A year-old CV may be out of date. Ask for a current CV ideally before, or at least during, the expert’s deposition, and ask for an explanation of changes or additions.

2. University Appointments. Fulltime, salaried, tenure track, medical university appointments are prestigious and require a practitioner to devote continuous time to practicing medicine, teaching and research (i.e., publishing medical literature) to climb the academic ladder. Medical universities are always short on good teachers, so they offer a large number of unpaid, volunteer positions to physicians who may want to teach only a few hours a month. In exchange, the physician can list the prestigious-sounding university appointment on his or her CV. These positions are usually, but not always, indicated by referring to the appointment as a “clinical” position such as “Clinical Associate Professor” or “Clinical Assistant Professor.” The physician may deliver only a few lectures a year or host a single medical trainee in his office for just a few hours during a brief rotation. Many physicians continue to list these positions long after they are actively participating.

3. Research. Today, most medical research grants have a primary author and up to dozens of participating personnel. Inquire about the exact role of the physician in any listed research. Determine if the research was a large, national, governmental or otherwise prestigious research project, or whether it was a small project, perhaps underwritten by a drug or medical device manufacturer to encourage use of their product.

4. Publications. Publications will also have primary authors and multiple secondary participants. Usually, participants in studies are listed in their order of prestige or contribution. Again, question the role of the physician in any publication. Physicians will often have dozens or even hundreds of publications listed. Study the list prior to the deposition and read anything directly relevant to your case. Cross-examination of a physician using his own publications can be very powerful. During the deposition, have the physician circle on his CV any publication he believes is directly related to the issues in your case and attach this version as an exhibit to the deposition. You can later review the identified publications to prepare for trial.

5. Presentations. The quality of speeches and presentations listed in a CV can vary dramatically. A presentation at a major international conference is more prestigious than a lunchtime ten-minute update to a group of nurses at a community hospital. Many CVs list both. If a presentation may be relevant to your case, ask if there were any written materials or a PowerPoint from the presentation. Ask the expert to forward you a copy of any materials through opposing counsel.

6. Military Service. Always question the witness about any military experience. Military service is highly respected by juries. You will want to know where the expert served, whether he received honors or medals, and what his rank is (many medical experts with military experience remain in the reserves for decades).

7. Hospital Appointments. Again, it can appear impressive if a physician has multiple hospital appointments. Often under questioning, you will find that the physician only has limited privileges at some of the facilities named or that she has continued to list facilities whose privilege appointments have lapsed.

8. Active Practice. Most importantly of all, make sure you question the physician about his actual ongoing practice. Many physicians have shifted the emphasis of their practice, stopped doing certain procedures, decreased hours, or otherwise are practicing in a much more limited form than their CV may suggest. Make sure you know how the physician actually spends his week practicing medicine.

Finally, make sure you secure the agreement of the witness that before trial he will provide you with an updated CV (by going through opposing counsel) so that there will be no surprises in the courtroom.

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