ABC News Investigates Top Doctor Awards: Are They Always Well Deserved?

PHOTO: Dr. Mark Silverberg
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One of 2012's America's "Top Dentists" hasn't practiced a single day of dentistry since his training days were over in 1986.

Dr. Mark Silverberg did graduate from dental school, but instead of becoming a dentist he followed his life's calling to medical school.

And despite working as a board-certified anesthesiologist, not a dentist, in Chicago for more than twenty years, the Consumers' Research Council of America-- an organization that provides the public with "information guides for professional services"-- chose Silverberg to receive top honors in its Guide to America's Top Dentists.

As part of an ABC News investigation into how "Top Doctor" awards are handed out, Dr. Mark Silverberg sent away $183 and received a "museum grade" wall plaque to showcase his undeserved award. According to the Consumers' Research Council of America, the plaque was a way to commemorate Dr. Silverberg as "among the nation's most excellent" dentists.

Dr. Silverberg said, "It's a sham. I've practiced zero days of dentistry in my life- and I still received this award for being one of America's Top Dentists."

About Consumers' Research Council of America

Consumers' Research Council of America offers "Top Doctor" awards across nearly two-dozen specialties including Top Cardiologists, Plastic Surgeons, Obstetricians, Surgeons and Pediatricians.

The organization says doctors are selected based on a point system that considers experience, training, membership in professional associations, and board certification.

Any doctor who earns enough points qualifies to be included on the list. The company first sends doctors a flattering letter congratulating them on their "impressive achievements," and invites them to be included as one of America's Top Physicians. Doctors are then encouraged by a second company, "State License Documentation"- or SLD- to buy plaques and trophies that cost anywhere from $99 to $530.

The companies claim "no fees, donations, sponsorships, or advertising are accepted," but the small print reveals otherwise.

Mailings obtained by ABC News show that Consumers' Research Council of America receives money for the award plaques SLD sells to doctors.

And some doctors make a big deal about these awards to attract patients—hanging plaques in waiting rooms, touting awards on their websites and even issuing formal press releases announcing their selection.

Just Who is on Top Doctor Lists?

ABC News uncovered sobering details about the Consumers' Research Council of America selection and review process.

Their database of "Top Physicians" includes doctors with serious criminal and disciplinary records.

Dr. Conrad Murray, convicted of manslaughter for administering a lethal overdose of the anesthetic propofol to Michael Jackson in 2009, is still listed as a "Top Cardiologist," according to the Consumers' Research Council of America.

A "Top Pediatrician" according to the Consumers' Research Council of America is also a convicted serial child rapist charged with the molestation of 103 children. Dr. Earl Bradley is currently serving 14 life sentences in addition to a 160-year prison term, yet he remains on the Consumers' Research Council of America "Top Pediatrician" list.

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