MILWAUKEE (CBS/AP) William Hamman was flying high.
As a cardiologist and United Airlines captain, he taught doctors and pilots ways to keep hearts and planes from crashing. He shared millions in grants, had university and hospital posts, and bragged of work for prestigious medical groups.
But it turns out Hamman isn't a doctor.
The Associated Press found he had no medical residency, fellowship, or doctoral degree, nor the 15 years of clinical experience he claimed. He attended medical school for a few years but withdrew and didn't graduate.
His pilot qualifications do not appear to be in question - he holds the highest type of license a pilot can have, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said.
However, United grounded him in August after his medical and doctoral degrees evaporated like contrails of the jets he flew. He resigned in June as an educator and researcher at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., after a credentials check revealed discrepancies, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Doctors who worked with the 58-year-old pilot are stunned, not just at the ruse and how long it lasted, but also because many of them valued his work.
"I was shocked to hear the news," said Dr. W. Douglas Weaver, who was president of the cardiology group when it gave Hamman a training contract for up to $250,000 plus travel a few years ago. "He was totally dedicated to what he was doing."
Hamman's lawyer acknowledged that his client did not have the medical and doctoral degrees he had claimed from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1980s.
There is no indication Hamman ever treated a patient, though his teamwork training had him videotaping in emergency rooms and other settings where patients were being treated.
Hamman does have an associate's degree in general aviation flight technology and a bachelor of science degree from Purdue University, according to the FAA.
After fessing up, Hamman asked the AMA and the cardiology group to let him continue, saying, "the work is the work."
But they decided that a lie is a lie.
"He really didn't need to be a physician to do what he was doing. He could have been successful without titling himself," said Weaver of the cardiology college. "He made a very serious mistake."