Phony doctor fooled AMA, other health groups for nearly 20 years

Several hospital and medical groups--chief among them, the American Medical Association--are wiping egg off of their faces following the recent news that a highly-respected cardiologist/airline pilot they had hired to lead teamwork and patient safety seminars was, in fact, a fraud, reports the Associated Press

While the man in question, William Hamman, did actually hold a pilot's license, he attended medical school only briefly before dropping out--a far cry from the 15 years of clinical experience and the "M.D." title he touted. Hamman had been posing as a doctor since at least 1992, according to the AP

So, how did Hamman get caught? Simple: Someone finally looked at his credentials. A background check regarding his lack of a medical degree was conducted after he submitted a grant proposal last spring. By mid-June, Hamman had resigned from Royal Oak, Mich.-based William Beaumont Hospital, where he had been given a $250,000 contract a few years back to travel the country and conduct training seminars. 

"I was shocked to hear the news," said Dr. W. Douglas Weaver, who was president of the cardiology group when Hamman received the aforementioned contract. "He was totally dedicated to what he was doing, and there is a real need for team-based education in medicine." 

Despite the news, some at the AMA initially were willing to let Hamman continue with a planned seminar--choosing only to edit his biography and his "Dr." title to "Captain on course materials, the AP reports. Only after top officials learned of the quick-fix attempt was Hamman yanked from the program entirely. 

Dr. William O'Neill, a former Beaumont cardiologist, told the AP he understood how the Hamman situation could have been overlooked. 

"Somehow you've gotten the name or seen them in the literature," O'Neill said. "I thought [when hearing about how many people had been fooled], ‘There but for the grace of God go I.'" 

Ironically, Weaver said, Hamman could have continued along in his line of work had he just not lied, considering he only gave teamwork--and not medical--advice. 

"He really didn't need to be a physician to do what he was doing," Weaver told the AP. "He could have been successful without titling himself. He made a very serious mistake." 

To learn more:
- read the Associated Press article