Retraction Watch readers may recall the case of William Hamman, the United Airlines pilot who claimed to be a cardiologist until the Associated Press uncovered him in late 2010. Hamman had published at least six papers, and since the revelations has had one retraction and one erratum, by our count.
To Our Readers:
In its September 2010 issue, volume 6, issue 3, the Journal of Patient Safety published an article, ‘‘Understanding Interdisciplinary Healthcare Teams: Using Simulation Design Processes From the Air Carrier Advanced Qualification Program (AQP) to Identify and Train Critical Teamwork Skills,’’ submitted by William Hamman, Jeff Beaubein, and Beth Beaudin-Seiler. The professional credentials and academic affiliations listed by the authors gave no indication of any challenges. Peer review had uncovered no potentially serious issues. Then, in mid-December 2010, it was publicly revealed that William Hamman, the corresponding author, is not a physician and does not hold the PhD degree he claimed. Mr. Hamman had been falsely representing his academic qualifications to granting agencies, health care organizations, and publications for the last 15 years. The Journal of Patient Safety, like the other journals that have published work from Mr. Hamman, had to retract the article.
Retraction is a serious sanction to impose on a team of co-authors. In the present case, the other authors’ credentials are perfectly legitimate and their future publication submissions will be considered in the same fashion as any other qualified authors. To the Journal’s understanding, Mr. Hamman’s co-authors were unaware of the inaccuracies of his credentials. However, due to the serious nature of the false representation of Mr. Hamman, the Journal of Patient Safety has no choice other than to issue a retraction of our article.
The paper has been cited once, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
Hamman and his colleagues have another study in the same journal, published a year earlier: “Using in situ simulation to identify and resolve latent environmental threats to patient safety: case study involving a labor and delivery ward.” That one, in which Hamman also claims an MD and PhD, does not appear to have been retracted.
The fact that Hamman’s misdeeds — reminiscent, as we’ve noted, of Frank Abagnale Jr., of Catch Me If You Can fame — ensnared unknowing co-authors is a good reminder of the collateral damage that misconduct can cause.