Inappropriate interview questions?

Discussion in 'General Residency Issues' started by surg-girl, Nov 29, 2005.

  1. surg-girl

    surg-girl New Member

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    Is it okay for interviewers to ask you what other programs you have interviewed at? I was asked in by three attendings during my first interview, and it made me feel kinda uncomfortable.
     
  2. Bobblehead

    Bobblehead Senior Member
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    Maybe they're just making small talk?
     
  3. usnavdoc

    usnavdoc Senior Member
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    I went outside of the match for obvious reasons but because of that I was not confined to the rules of the match.

    Every program that asked me this line of question offered me a position. I got the impression they were gauging their competition. Could be along those lines but it might also just be small talk.

    I wouldn’t worry about this and I would answer that line of questioning honestly.
     
  4. Espion

    Espion is a girl
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    I got asked the inevitable..."Are you married?" Definitely a loaded question, as I am a female going into surgery.

    When I said no, he actually asked, "Well, *pause* are you going to be?"

    :eek: :mad:

    I should have told him that I'm never getting married, but I will soon fulfill my dream of being a surrogate mother during my intern year.
    Have uterus, will travel.



    [And to answer the OP's question...I usually deflect the question by saying I'm interviewing in the "Midwest" or "Southeast". If they really want to know, then I tell them.]
     
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  5. BKN

    BKN Senior Member
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    The are you married question is illegal. Can you do anything about it? I doubt it, if you send a little letter to his dean, they might rain on his parade. Don't do it untill after you match elsewhere.
     
  6. carrigallen

    carrigallen 16th centry dutch painter
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    I think the best answer is a general but enthusiastic one - ie northeast, new england, etc. Instead of listing all your interviews, start talking about how much you like the city of that particular program. Ie, "..that's an interesting question because out of all the places I have interviewed, I really like it here in Boston because...".
    Another style would be to respond - Q. "Where else have you interviewed?" A. "Its been a loong process, plane flights, etc etc....but out of all this I'm glad to be interviewing here, you know just the other day...".

    Responding to a question enthusiastically can allow you to avoid answering it point blank. The same goes for other perfidious questions, like children - Q. "Do you have children?" A. "Oh! I know quite a few families with children in Boston, it is a great place for young people, especially with the new zoo opening up..." (keep on talking! this lets them think they forgot or missed hearing your answer.) Obviously this will only work once or twice before they begin to suspect you have a hearing problem. :laugh:
     
  7. mosche

    mosche Senior Member
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    I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that the interviewer was just trying to assess my ultimate career goals. For instance, if I mention that I am looking at Ivy League programs they will assume that I'm committed to research or academia; if I mention community programs, on the other hand, they will likely assume that I'm primarily interested in a clinical practice.
     
  8. Espion

    Espion is a girl
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    The way he pursued it is what bothered me most. I think when he noticed my eyebrows hiked to the upper third of my forehead, he hastily explained himself as wanting to know if I was "couples matching".

    He's just one of surgery's many relics. I figured I might as well take the question in a stride and deal with it later.
     
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  9. atsai3

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    I've been asked that question at each of my (psych) interviews. On all occasions save one I got the impression -- and I could be wrong -- that the person asking me the question was genuinely interested in the kinds of programs I'm considering and was ready to offer some unsolicited career advice. On one occasion my interviewer suggested, "Given your research interests, I really think you should strongly consider Program X", even before I revealed that I was considering that particular program. It was somewhat comforting to know that A) my instincts about Program X were actually on target, and B) here was a senior faculty member who actually had my best interests in mind and was telling me to look closely at a competing program.

    At the one program where I thought they were not necessarily asking the question with my best interests in mind, I sensed that the interviewer (a P.D.) was just trying to size up the competition and guess which program I might rank more highly than theirs. But like I said, I think this was an anomaly.

    I've also been asked the "are you married?" question multiple times. Again, my first instinct was not to whine (internally) "THAT QUESTION IS ILLEGAL" -- I just thought my interviewer was trying to gather more information so that s/he could give me a better assessment of whether the program and city would be a good fit for me, e.g., "If you're single/married, then I'll be honest, this area might/might not be the best for you."

    My $0.02,
    -AT.
     
  10. Espion

    Espion is a girl
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    Who was getting their panties in a wad? :confused:
     
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  11. ExtraCrispy

    ExtraCrispy Funky chicken
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    Espion, I'm sorry that you had to suffer through that during an interview - and as another gal going into surgery, I can definitely sympathize.

    I had an interview a few weeks ago that left my blood boiling. The interviewer OPENED the session by looking at my wedding band and stating, "So I see you're married." I usually just volunteer this information during interviews, so I affirmed the statement. His next question: "Do you have any kids?" He then immediately followed this inquiry with this question: "If surgery were to go back to the way it was before the 80-hour work week, would you leave?" and explained that he's noted an increase in the number of women entering surgery. His implication was that I wouldn't consider surgery if the hours were still so grueling. When he saw the indignation on my face, he stammered "but all the ones I've seen have done a good job," then switched topics.

    I'm actually planning to contact the program about the encounter. The ONLY thing in my application to lead to this line of questioning is the fact that I'm a woman, and I'm sure he's taking a similar approach with other female applicants.

    Hang in there, sister, we'll get through. :)
     
  12. dodo2

    dodo2 Senior Member
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    My room-mate was asked by the chief resident "Since you are so old, how do you feel about taking orders from much younger chief resident and attendings?"
     
  13. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic!
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    The QUESTION is not "illegal" but rather using your answer to make decisions about the match is. Of course, maybe we're just splitting hairs because perhaps your answer to such a question does factor in, however subconsciously in the mind of the interviewer, into a program's match decisions.

    One shouldn't surmise underhanded motives in these type of questions. Most of the time they are simple conversation fillers, getting to know more about you.

    Nearly every place I interviewed for residency and fellowship asked where else I was interviewing. Its a pretty common question. I'm sure it is in part trying to assess your interest in the type of program they offer (ie, if its a community program and all of your other interviews are major university powerhouses), geographic considerations, etc.

    Part of the process when ranking candidates is the determination of how interested the student/resident is in your program and how likely they are to come there. Programs don't operate on the same mentality as we're taught - "rank your most favored program first, even if you have no chance of matching there". Since the match favors the applicant, programs aren't likely to rank someone highly if they feel there is little chance the person will rank them highly. We can't ask you how you will rank us, so little questions about what you want in a program, geographic considerations, whether or not your married (ie, we're wondering whether or not your spouse will want to come to our little town, whether they can find a job, etc.), help us ascertain what are the chances you'll rank us. We know that applicants, especially those in more competitive fields will often interview at many places, without regard to location or program type - they often want a spot, any spot.

    The message is that to expect these questions and understand the reasoning behind them. If you are very interested in a program, tell them. If you aren't and its obvious from your answers, either rethink your answer to these type of questions (if you care what the program thinks about your application) or just ignore them.
     
  14. Hurricane

    Hurricane Senior Member
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    I think you have to take the "illegal" questions in context. I have been asked the "are you married" question. It's kinda obvious since I wear my wedding ring. I think the interviewers were trying to make converstation, get to know me, etc. Sometimes they asked what he does for a living, and I got the sense they were trying to gauge how easy it would be for him to move and get a job in the area. (And I have a good answer: "computers" which means he can follow me just about anywhere :) )

    However, if I had been asked that question in the manner Espion and ExtraCrispy were, I would have been miffed. In those cases, the question comes off as a challenge, and I suspect that male applicants weren't asked that question in that manner.

    Regarding the where are you applying question, I don't mind that. So far when I've been asked, I get advice and opinions on some of the programs, which I welcome.

    Or maybe I'm just too open and laid back for my own good. ;)
     
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  15. Poety

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    Hey Hurricane!

    There is one program, and I won't say which, that kinda grills you on where you applied and wants you to tell them what you think of each program in comparison to them. It was definitely annoying to say the least and in retrospect has lowered where I would rank them on my list - so in a way its a good thing, I see how they are about things, and decided I don't fit well!
     
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  16. dodo2

    dodo2 Senior Member
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    When I told my interviewer where I was interviewing next, he told me that he was from that program. He gave me great insight about that program. This came in very handy when I interviewed at that program.
     
  17. daisyduke

    daisyduke Senior Member
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    I was asked some questions at an interview that were definitely innapropriate/illegal:

    Do you have any health problems, past major hospitalizations?

    Do you have any depth perception problems?

    This program has also asked other female candidates in the past if they plan on getting pregnant during residency (somehow I escaped this one).

    I definitely think that it is totally inappropriate to ask about personal health at an interview. I'm sorry, but the attending physician interviewing me is not MY physician!!!
     
  18. Hurricane

    Hurricane Senior Member
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    Is this for surgery? I'd say "yes, but I plan on doing all laparoscopic procedures where depth perception isn's an issue. I'm confident I'll do fine. After all, I have a record high score in Grand Theft Auto! How much harder can it be?" :laugh:

    Seriously though, "do you have any health problems" is definitely not cool. Did you answer it?
     
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  19. BayAreaOB

    BayAreaOB Junior Member
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    As an interviewer, I agree with Dr. Cox. Often questions about marital status are just small-talk and trying to assess fit. If all the other residents are married with kids, it might be harder for a single resident to make friends, fit in, etc. The applicant might not want to go to a program like that.

    Also, sometimes the relationship status can work in your favor. For me, my significant other had geographical limitations for his job and I was able to use that positively when I interviewd (and Matched) in the SF Bay Area. It shows that we are likely to stay in the area.

    I agree that any questions about health, etc are off limits.
     
  20. daisyduke

    daisyduke Senior Member
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    Fortunately I don't have health problems, so I just said, no I'm perfectly healthy! But if I did have any health problems, I would have lied. I feel like you kinda have to answer those crappy questions in order to play the game... and if it pisses you off to much, just don't rank them.

    Oh, and it was an Ob/Gyn interview.
     
  21. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic!
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    I disagree that this is an inappropriate question - especially for fields which require this skill (especially laparoscopic procedures - common in surgery and gastroenterology, interventional radiology). Programs have a right to know, and most will require you to sign an affadavit that you do not have any health related problems which will affect your ability to perform as a resident.

    I"m not comfortable with the generalized health problems question, after having some myself, and am not sure its their business since I don't believe it affects my ability to perform my duties.
     
  22. uscarioca

    uscarioca Junior Member

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    I have been asked the same question and I didn't think it was inappropriate. Actually, most of interviewers asked if I was married and then if my husband was willing to relocate.
    I think they were just trying to see what kind of support I would have...
    I could be wrong, but that is how I understood...
    :)
     
  23. robotsonic

    robotsonic Senior Member
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    I'm pretty sure that laparoscopy doesn't require good depth perception. Your eyes are viewing it on a 2 dimensional screen, so your brain isn't using eye accomodation to ascertain relative distances. (Viewing the screen with one eye or two eyes will give the same message about the contents on the screen.)
    Good depth perception would be needed for other surgical procedures, though.
     
  24. Mutis

    Mutis Junior Member

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    At two different programs I was asked: Are you married? (Obvious from my wedding band)

    In the first program it was certainly small talk since the conversation led to children and the interviewer also had young children. It was a very nice conversation, including health insurance, etc.

    At the second program however, every single interviewer asked the same question, but they went further to inquire about my children and their age. One of the interviewers even took notes of their age. Another interviewer even challenged my ability to be a resident while having a toddler at home. I had strong arguments to reply to his challenge and of course my LOR should talk about my hard work. I talked to residents and very few have children, so I guess they take children into account when ranking. Anyway, after this interview I do not plan to rank this program.

    By the way, I am male.
     
  25. mshheaddoc

    mshheaddoc Howdy
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    Bumping an old thread for when somoene asked the question "do you have any foreseeable health or family situations that would interfere with work?" Just seems a little out there for fishing ... they see a wedding ring and they assume ...
     
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  26. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    This question is OK but it is up to you as to how you answer it or if you even WANT to answer this question. You can politely decline to mention the programs that you have applied to or just say, "several in the northeast" or something like that.
     
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  27. Shah_Patel_PT

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    I was asked "how many programs did you apply to" and "how many interviews did you get so far"

    Do PDs know from ERAS...this info???? Would they know I lied? (if i did)
     
  28. NinerNiner999

    NinerNiner999 Senior Member
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    What is your bra size?
     
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  29. NinerNiner999

    NinerNiner999 Senior Member
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    No - seriously - what is your bra size?
     
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  30. raspberry swirl

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    im couples matching, so i've been asked on every interview about my "significant other". in my case, im pretty sure they were just making conversation, curious to know about my situation, etc. i think it depends on the vibe you get when they ask the question. if you're at all observant, you'll get a feeling whether the question is "illegal" or simply curiosity about you and your life.
     
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  31. Hernandez

    Hernandez Paranoid and Crotchety...
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    I'd like to know what the concensus is in tgis too. the health seems like a legitimate question without asking for a complete PMH, but the family situations seems.....questionable
     
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  32. Faebinder

    Faebinder Slow Wave Smurf
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    That's a great suggestion nut what do you do if it was a community program none university affiliated.

    My guess is nothing....
     
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  33. Sebastian.

    Sebastian. Member
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    Boxers or briefs? I always hate when they ask that question. If you say boxers then maybe you're too conservative, set in you ways. But say briefs and you could be too radical and maybe a bit of an exibitionist/egoist. :(
     
  34. nolagas

    nolagas Member
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    I am a single man and was frequently asked whether or not I was married when I was interviewing. I always thought they were trying to figure out how my (non-existent) wife would influence my rank list. For example, if she were a lawyer and passed the bar in one state, my likelihood of ranking programs in that state would be higher and in other states would be lower. If I interviewed in her home town, they'd expect me to rank them highly. etc. etc. The question isn't necessarily sexist or intended to bias them against you.
     
  35. rirriri

    rirriri easy
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    there was a program i interviewed last year...where EVERY ONE of the 7 attendings i met with asked me where else i interviewed at. I think they must have together decided to uniformly ask that question.

    Nowhere else was i really asked that...except for a couple times where i was asked which other places i was interested in..

    wack.
     
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  36. atsai3

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    To reiterate a sentiment in one of my earlier posts in this thread (and to echo what other posters have also said): Having the attitude that your interviewers are all out to uncover secret information or trick you into divulging something you don't want to divulge is probably a very unhelpful attitude to have in the interview season. (To be sure, there probably are interviewers like that out there, but I submit to you that they are the exception rather than the rule.) Rather, I would encourage you to regard the interview as an opportunity for you to determine whether the program is a good fit for you -- and for the program to decide if you are a good fit for them.

    The "where else are you applying?" question is fair game. I was pretty much asked that question and "what other programs are you considering heavily?" at every one of my interviews, and I never thought for a minute to whine internally about whether or not this was an appropriate or inappropriate question. On several occasions the interviewer would say something like "some of our single residents have complained about the nightlife here", or "with your research interests, have you considered program X or Y?", and I really appreciated that information. Likewise, many of my classmates were asked about their family situations or family plans, and in response to their questions the interviewer took the opportunity to tout the program's family friendliness, the quality of the public schools in the area, and what not. And if you do have children and would prefer training in a program that will enable you to spend more time with them (e.g., a psych program where you don't take any overnight call, a medicine program where the program director may be willing to let you finish in >3 years) then that is important to know -- it is important for you to know that about a particular program, and it is important for a program to know that about a particular candidate. It works both ways.

    It's in the program's interest to take people that they think will remain happy during residency, so of course they are going to ask 'fishing' questions to gather data that will enable them to make the appropriate estimates and statistical inferences. If your interviewer asking you a particular question is going to make you not rank that particular program, then that's actually a pretty good outcome -- better you made the assessment earlier rather than later.

    -AT.
     
  37. justwondering

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    i was at a scholarship interview recently. my interviewer happened to be the PD of a residency program. i was wearing a headscarf, for religious requirements, and out of the blue, he asked me if i had problems with patients because of it or if they gave me strange looks. normally i dont mind people asking about my attire (whether im at the grocery store or waiting in a hallway for an elevator), but it didnt seem fair to ask this question at an interview. i think the fact that ive completed my rotations with good grades and had good recs should answer to the fact that i can interact well with pts.
     
  38. dpmd

    dpmd Relaxing
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    The programs are asking questions so they can figure out if you are:
    1-going to rank them (no program wants to go unfilled or have to go way down on their rank list just to fill their spots)
    2-going to complete the program (I sure it sucks for them if people leave to be closer to family, or because the program isn't meeting their need. I am also sure it sucks for them to have to cover for someone who wants to have five kids or needs to be on chemo or something)
    3-going to pass their boards (no program wants to be know as the one where half the graduates take two or three tries to become board certified)

    Now, the powers that be have decided that certain questions are off limits so programs should abide by this, but do you really blame them for wanting to pick people who are going to like it there and work for the entire residency?
     
  39. Winged Scapula

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    As atsai notes, there really is no great conspiracy or underpinning to these questions.

    In most respects they are trying to assess your interest in their program (ie, if you are interviewing at a mid-west program, but all your other interviews are in the northeast, or community vs academic, they might wonder why you came there), if you would be happy there, etc.

    If I inquired as to whether an applicant was married or not, it was most likely "just making conversation" and to also try and be helpful in assessing the fit of the town for the potential resident. After all, if someone was single and enjoyed the active social life of a big city, it wouldn't be fair for me to try and sell him/her on my relatively small town residency (not that they hadn't noticed), but I could offer some advice about meeting people there, what social outlets there are, etc.

    "potential for health and/or family concerns" might be assumed to be assessing whether or not you will complete the program, will be happy there (ie, if you have an elderly parent in another state far away or a spouse who can't move, it might signal that you might not finish) and whether or not you will be eligible for a license. After all, you might have a hidden disability which could prevent you from performing your duties and they have a right to know.
    I'm sure most female applicants assume this is really asking, "are you planning on getting pregnant during residency and leaving us high and dry with a huge hole in the call schedule?". Maybe they are, but most programs, IMHO are a little more enlightened about female residents these days...even surgical ones.


    Finally, some interviewers are just social clods. Maybe they really are interested in your religious background, how wearing the hijab affects your daily life, what your family plans are, etc. but it comes across as crass or inappropriate.
     
  40. chicamedica

    chicamedica 1K Member
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    at my home program, my advisor was one of my interviewers. On my interview, he basically was like ok tell me all the good, bad, and ugly you saw/heard on the interview trail about other programs. Maybe he was just trying to make small talk, but that made me feel extremely uncomfortable.
     
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  41. Stimulate

    2+ Year Member

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    Prior to my residency and fellowship interviews I read a few books on interviewing skills, and this truly revealed how clueless these interviewers are.

    For example, one book postulated that the first sign of an untrained interviewer is the standard "tell me about yourself" question. I think I got this question at every single program I interviewed at. So much so that it made me smile and almost chuckle each time I heard it. However, the nice thing about untrained interviewers is that it is easy to take over the interview and get across the points you want.

    Part of the problem with these "illegal" interview questions is that these interviewers really need to have some training by the human resources folks prior to the interview season. But in medicine just like the real-world, the interviewers have much of the power. I suppose you could always record the interview secretly (likely not admissable in court) and use that to your advantage...

    If I were asked illegal questions like this, I would report that individual anonymously to his/her superiors (Dean, Program Director, etc.) and also to the Match officials.
     
  42. drbon

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    it makes it a little less aggravating to know that guys are asked the "are you married" question too....
     
  43. pathman2006

    pathman2006 New Member
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