Cancer agency exaggerated researcher's credentials
Jon Woodward, ctvbc.ca
Published Wednesday, June 2, 2010 3:00PM PDT
A major funder of cancer research in Canada is on the defensive over allegations it has publicly exaggerated the credentials of a senior researcher in B.C.
After inquiries by CTV News, the Canadian Cancer Society has removed from its website any reference to researcher Mary McBride having a PhD, or as a "Dr."
And when reached by CTV News, McBride agreed that her credentials had been misrepresented.
"I need to correct that, and have the Canadian Cancer Society correct that," McBride said in a telephone interview.
McBride is a senior researcher employed by the B.C. Cancer Agency. She received a $3-million grant from the Canadian Cancer Society to research the lifetime impact of childhood cancer treatments on cancer survivors.
She was also the co-investigator of the largest study of its kind that looked at the risk of cancer from cell-phone use by adults. The results of that decade-long study were released in May.
McBride said that some 30 years ago she was enrolled in a PhD program but had to quit for health reasons.
When her health improved, she had already begun publishing peer-reviewed research papers, and never got a degree more advanced than a Masters.
"I do not have a PhD and I have never represented myself as having a PhD," McBride said. She provided CTV News with a resume that was attached to a recent funding application. It listed her credentials correctly.
But because having so many papers published without a degree is rare, people often assume that she does have a PhD, McBride said. She said she would attempt to correct the misinformation.
"I've never searched for myself on the website," she said. "I guess I should have."
UBC ethicist Anita Ho said that a mistake like this could put the Canadian Cancer Society's reputation on the line.
"If there is false information out there that may boost the credentials of somebody, even if it was a mistake, if it was caught and not corrected, people may lose trust in the agency," she said.
"Are we trying to hide certain things, are we trying to make ourselves look better in terms of getting funding?" asked Ho.
McBride initially agreed to a television interview with CTV News, but then a representative from the BC Cancer Agency called and cancelled the interview.
The Canadian Cancer Society refused an interview as well, but told CTV News over the phone that it was a mistake that needed correcting.