It’s a mind-boggling story: A United Airlines pilot claims to be a cardiologist and was eagerly sought after for medical conferences at which he taught doctors teamwork. He shared millions in grants, according to the Associated Press. But as the AP reports, William Hamman wasn’t a cardiologist at all, having never even finished medical school.
Hamman’s career seems to be collapsing, now that he resigned from his post as a researcher and educator at Royal Oak, Michigan’s William Beaumont Hospital once the hospital found out he had misled them. (Just last year, Beaumont touted a $150,000 grant Hamman nabbed with a colleague, Marc Abramson at Improbable Research notes.) United has also grounded him.
The storyline is reminiscent of 2002’s Catch Me If You Can, in which Frank Abagnale Jr. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) forges millions of dollars’ worth of checks around the world, in the process impersonating a Pan Am pilot and a doctor. In Hamman’s case, there are apparently no questions over whether his pilot credentials are legit, according to the AP.
Our interest at Retraction Watch is what happens to the papers Hamman has published over the years. There are at least six, including two published this year. The AP reported that
Journals that printed articles listing Hamman with M.D. and Ph.D. degrees are being contacted in case they want to correct the work.
A fake credential isn’t necessarily a reason to retract papers, but it’s a reason to wonder what else an author is lying about — data, for example. After all, it was the revelation that Anil Potti had lied about being a Rhodes Scholar that led to scrutiny of his work, at least one retraction, and eventually his resignation.
We contacted the editors of the five journals where Hannan published. Jean Gayton Carroll, editor in chief of Quality Management in Health Care, tells Retraction Watch that the journal is “reviewing and evaluating” a paper it published earlier this year, “Using in situ simulation to identify and resolve latent environmental threats to patients safety: case study involving operational changes in a labor and delivery ward.”
The editor of the American Journal of Medical Quality, another of the journals in which Hamman published, tells us they’re looking into the situation.
We’ll update as we hear more.