Online purchased fraudulent medical diplomas

Chevy Chaser Magazine

By Susan Westrom, State Representative

Many of you read the Lexington Herald-Leader or watched the news in the beginning of October when the headline topic dealt with three “so-called” physicians who were practicing medicine in Kentucky with fraudulent diplomas all received from the same institution.  An 18-year-old woman died in anguish under circumstances that should not have occurred, and her family will carry the guilt of her painful death to their own graves.  It is astonishing to think we live in a time when people can go online to purchase an education as easily as they can purchase something on E-Bay.

For three years I have predicted that someone would be hurt by a professional fraud.  In Kentucky it is not a crime to present credentials which are purchased from an unaccredited institution and received in the mail in a matter of weeks.  For the past two years, for more reasons than just public safety, I have sponsored legislation that would make it a felony to present fraudulent credentials when applying for a job.  I feel that educated graduates deserve a level playing field when applying for a job, and that employers deserve to know the educational credentials found on an application are actually what their new hire has earned.

I have written editorials to the Chevy Chaser Magazine twice about this topic.  I would like to do a postscript on this very important legislation which has passed committee scrutiny before passing the House to the Senate three years in a row.  The bills languished in the Senate simply because Senate Leadership did not concern themselves with public safety.  Interestingly enough, in May of this year, someone from the Department of Transportation in Frankfort called my office to find out what had happened to my 2006 Diploma Mill bill because multiple applicants with fraudulent engineering degrees were trying to obtain state government jobs.  Imagine phony engineers planning and designing our bridges and roads!

Although I do not specialize in public safety legislation, I have done my share to protect the public.  Also in 2006, you may recall my legislation banning the purchase of alcohol without liquid (AWOL) inhalers specifically marketed toward our youth, potentially resulting in a much younger generation of full-blown alcoholics.  This bill met the same fate as my Diploma Mill bill.  Yet just this week in the Lexington Herald-Leader, and on both CNN and the Today Show, I learned from our Governor’s spokesperson that the Governor is very supportive of banning the purchase of alcohol inhalers in Kentucky.  However, his voice was no louder than that of the Senate Leadership when my bill passed to the House and died without a squeak in March of this very year!

Similarly, I filed legislation three years in a row banning the solicitation of credit cards on college campuses and requiring credit counseling in every Freshman Orientation class.  This legislation was supported by the Council on Postsecondary Education, and would have provided a golden opportunity for first-time credit cardholders to build a strong credit history.  Since the Senate would not bring this much-needed bill up for a vote, our college students are still being enticed with offers of pizzas and t-shirts in order to own a 27 percent interest rate credit card designed to get mom and dad to pay off, or destroy their credit.

I do not bear hypocrisy well, so what more can I do other than remain tenacious and refile these bills?  First of all, I can celebrate when the media headlines one of my missions and makes enough noise to shame our leaders into doing what is right, not just convenient for a political party to either ignore or acknowledge an issue.  I can also count on constituents like you to raise your voice when the time comes to hold our leaders accountable by making demands for solutions and resolutions.  I hope the 79th District citizens will do their part by doing their homework, going to the polls, and verbally participating in the 2007 Legislative Session.  You may reach me at [email protected], in Lexington at 266-7581, in Frankfort at 502-564-8100, Ext. 826, or go to my website for further details at www.susanwestrom.com.