Gemina Doolub admitted that she fabricated research data and submitted papers without the knowledge of her co-authors, including faking an email address for a co-author, a news story in the BMJ reports. The research in question was part of two retractions that Doolub received in 2013, one of which we covered at the time.
Doolub’s research examined ways to treat and avoid microvascular obstruction — that is, blocked arteries. Doolub did the work while at Oxford.
“Intracoronary Adenosine versus Intravenous Adenosine during Primary PCI for ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction: Which One Offers Better Outcomes in terms of Microvascular Obstruction?” was published in International Scholarly Research Notices Cardiology and has not yet been cited, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.
As the BMJ reports, in that paper,
she cited Erica Dall’Armellina, a clinical research fellow at the John Radcliffe Hospital, as a coauthor, fabricating an email address for her. Neither Dall’Armellina nor Oxford University had approved the paper.
In admissions made to the tribunal before the hearing, Doolub admitted fabricating research data for the paper and allowing flawed, erroneous, and confidential data to be published.
The retraction note, published in December 2013, confirms that account:
This article has been retracted upon the authors’ request, as it was found to include erroneous data that their findings and conclusions cannot be relied upon. Additionally, the article was submitted for publication by the author Gemina Doolub without the knowledge and approval of the other author Erica Dall’Armellina.
We covered the other retraction mentioned in the BMJ story — a conference abstract — which at the time seemed “like a good example of researchers doing the right thing.” However, the BMJ story reveals some extra information that was not mentioned in the retraction note.
In “Does Intracoronary Adenosine Injection During Primary PCI Reduce Microvascular Obstruction in Patients Admitted With STEMI?,” the BMJ reports, Doolub cited without permission,
Colin Forfar, a consultant cardiologist at the trust, as coauthor. Doolub admitted falsely stating that the study had been double blind, falsely naming Forfar as coauthor, and allowing the article to be published with flawed or erroneous data.
To refresh your memory, here is the 2013 note in full, published the the Journal of the American College of Cardiology:
This article has been retracted at the request of the author.
The prevalence of MVO was reduced in the adenosine-treated patients (45%) compared to 85% of control patients (P=0.0043). We found that the size of MVO in adenosine-treated patients was significantly reduced (0.35g) compared to 0.91 g in the control group (P=0.027). There was no statistically significant difference in TIMI flow and clinical outcomes after primary PCI.
Excel software was used to calculate the p-values. On recalculation using a newer version of the programme, the values are coming back different: Prevalence of MVO comparing adenosine to non-adenosine is now 0.15, therefore non-significant. Also the P-value for the mass of MVO in adenosine versus non-adenosine is 0.34, again non-significant.
According to the hearing chairman William Coppola, Doolub’s actions didn’t hurt patients, but were nonetheless concerning, the BMJ reports:
Even though the studies had posed little risk to patient health, being too small to change practice, “you nevertheless chose to place your interests before those of patients in general and the wider profession as a whole,” said Coppola.
The BMJ notes that Coppola apparently considered a harsher sentence, but took other factors into account:
Doolub, a native of Mauritius who qualified at Newcastle University in 2009, had shown insight and remorse, said Coppola, but had also continued to give false reasons for her actions as recently as last month, when she signed a witness statement which claimed that “I included Dr Dall’Armellina as coauthor of the study as I could not have completed the study without her assistance.” She later admitted that this was not true.
“The tribunal considered this to be a finely balanced case,” said Coppola, warning Doolub that her fate hovered between erasure and maximum suspension. Ultimately, he said, her frank testimony at the hearing and the supportive testimonials of more recent colleagues had told in her favour. Consultants with whom she was currently working, who knew of her misconduct, were willing to work with her again after any suspension, he added.
“The tribunal concluded that the mitigating factors set out above were just sufficient to indicate that the public interest could be met by a sanction of suspension,” he said. “In making this decision, the tribunal also took account of the public interest in keeping the services of a good doctor.”
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