Ex-NUS professor in resume fraud scandal in US

A former assistant professor at the National University of Singapore who landed a prestigious position at the West Virginia University (seen in picture above) is now at the centre of a sensational fraud investigation. -- PHOTO: About.WVU.DUE
A former assistant professor at the National University of Singapore who landed a prestigious position at the West Virginia University (seen in picture above) is now at the centre of a sensational fraud investigation. -- PHOTO: About.WVU.DUE

A former assistant professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) who landed a prestigious position at a United States university is now at the centre of a sensational fraud investigation.

According to his resume, Mr Anoop Shankar, 39, has a doctorate in epidemiology, graduated from India's top medical school when he was 21, was a member of the prestigious Royal College of Physicians and had been awarded a "genius" visa to America.

But US media outlets now report that these credentials began to unravel after West Virginia University (WVU) handpicked him in 2012 for the first endowed position in a new School of Public Health.

In that position, he would have controlled millions of dollars in federal funding and research grants.

What was to have been a routine pre-appointment review revealed that Mr Shankar did not have a doctorate degree, and did not graduate from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.

What he does have is a master's degree in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina.

The case, among the most serious of its kind, has now also sparked scrutiny into the larger issue of fraud that goes unchecked at some institutes of higher education.

Associate Professor Koh Woon Puay of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School said she was taken aback by the allegations as she had not found any reason to question his credentials.

"Personally, I did not have any reason to suspect at that time that he was not trained in epidemiology or statistics to carry out his research," said Prof Koh, who stood by the three papers they had worked on together.

The alleged lies were exposed by Dr Ian Rockett, who is chair of the promotion and tenure committee at the School of Public Health at WVU and a tenured professor in the Department of Epidemiology.

But even though Mr Shankar was dismissed by the university in 2012, the school did not address the case publicly.

He was even able to find employment as an associate professor of family medicine at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond.

Reports say he even published three papers in the last year, including one in the prestigious Journal Of The American Medical Association.

Mr Shankar has since quietly parted ways with VCU as well, and his current whereabouts are unclear.

The university said in a statement: "Shankar was employed by VCU and is no longer employed here."

WVU officials also told NBC News that it would make "a complete and full public statement" when "all the facts are clear and known", though they were unable to provide a timeline.

NUS confirmed that Mr Shankar was an assistant professor with the Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine at NUS' Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine from 2005 to 2008, but did not provide further comment.

simlinoi@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Samantha Boh