Recently, MSNBC reported that respected cardiologist and United Airlines captain Dr. William Hamman is in fact not a doctor at all. “The AP found he had no medical residency, fellowship, doctoral degree or the 15 years of clinical experience he claimed. He attended medical school for a few years but withdrew and didn’t graduate.” As a result, “Journals that printed articles listing Hamman with M.D. and Ph.D. degrees are being contacted in case they want to correct the work. Beaumont removed him from a U.S. Department of Defense medical simulation contract that a physician at the hospital had obtained.”
Dr. Hamman lied. He lied about his credentials and should be punished for that.
What news articles are not covering, however, is the quality of work Dr. Hamman did. If Dr. Hamman conducted heart surgery without the proper training, then that is a serious issue. According to the news report, however, “There is no indication Hamman ever treated a patient.”
Instead, Dr. Hamman’s training sessions used an operations research framework from his background as a pilot in order to help Doctor’s improve quality. His training was typically titled, “This is Your Captain Speaking: What can we learn about patient safety from the airlines?” They were so successful, that “Even after learning of Hamman’s deception, the American Medical Association was going to let him lead a seminar that had been in the works, altering his biography and switching his title from ‘Dr.’ to ‘Captain’ on course materials. It was canceled after top officials found out.”
It is possible that the only way for Dr. Hamman to gain the respect of his peers or even gain entry into the world of medicine is with an MD. Nevertheless, this does not mean that Dr. Hamman could not have conducting high quality training seminars to maximize physician teamwork.
One of my friend’s who is a physician actually worked with Hamman. The physician said that Hamman seemed legitimate. He never talked about clinical issues, only simulation and teamwork issues.
On the personal level, this story is about a man who lied and lacked integrity. On a system level, this story may actually tell more about physicians’ efforts to prohibit non-physicians from providing any services even remotely related to medical care–such as Mr. Hamman’s teamwork training. Physician efforts to protect their turf is legendary…this may be the real story.