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In memoriam: William B. Hamlin, MD 1931-2004

June 2004

William B. Hamlin, MD, immediate past-chair of the Commission on Laboratory Accreditation, died of cancer May 3. He was 72.

Dr. Hamlin’s leadership of the Laboratory Accreditation Program had far-reaching impact on the quality of patient testing in the U.S. and beyond. During his tenure as chair of the commission, from 1993 through 2001, the College was awarded deeming authority to inspect laboratories under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988. The number of inspections of U.S. and foreign labs grew during his term, as did the number of countries that used the CAP’s program as a model to create their own. Dr. Hamlin spearheaded the work to design and develop the computer program that supports the CAP’s accreditation activities today. He received the 2004 Major General Joe M. Blumberg Award and the 1992 Frank W. Hartman Memorial Award for his service as CLA chair and, before that, as inspector, regional commissioner, and vice chair.

"He always told the story," says former CAP president Loyd R. Wagner, MD, "that he got involved because he complained about the instrument manual that was published, and General Blumberg [commissioner from 1969 to 1978] appointed him chairman of the committee to rewrite it. From that point on, he became very active in the LAP."

"He was passionate about quality in the laboratory," he adds. "And he was passionate about the role of the volunteer inspectors. He felt they were the backbone of the program."

"He was probably one of the smartest people I ever met," says Ron Lepoff, MD, who succeeded Dr. Hamlin as chair of the commission. "He was also a very good judge of people. He picked good people and seldom made a mistake. And people were loyal to him. They really were."

Dr. Hamlin served on the CAP Board of Governors from 1985 to 1991. He was chair of the Council on Scientific Affairs and the chair or a member of numerous other committees and councils during his 37 years as a CAP member. Dr. Hamlin received the Frank C. Coleman Award for Public Service in 2001 and Pathologist of the Year Award in 1993.

During his career, he held many positions at Swedish Hospital Medical Center, Seattle, including director of laboratories, and he was clinical professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Before retiring, he had been chairman of the board of directors and director of laboratories for Laboratory of Pathology of Seattle.

Dr. Wagner fondly remembers Dr. Hamlin as a loyal friend whose peers respected him for his honesty, integrity, and candor. "He was not afraid to speak his mind, and he would tell people when they were wrong," Dr. Wagner says, "but because of his honesty and integrity, people came to trust him."

John K. Duckworth, MD, who preceded Dr. Hamlin as chair of the commission, describes him as "forthright and fearless," one who "could always be counted on whenever he was needed," and "a natural born leader."

In his personal time, Dr. Hamlin enjoyed collecting stamps, bird watching, and reading, particularly about World War II-related topics. Dr. Wagner shared Dr. Hamlin’s interest in bird watching and the two of them and their spouses traveled together. In 1994, Drs. Hamlin and Wagner spent six weeks in Africa as volunteers in a histology laboratory and on safari.

"We had become very, very dear friends," Dr. Wagner says. "Bill was in my opinion just one of the finest people that you’d ever want to know."

Dr. Hamlin is survived by his wife Irene; daughters Vicki and Sheryl; son Charles; and six grandchildren.

The William B. Hamlin, MD, Memorial Fund has been established within the CAP Foundation. Memorial gifts can be sent to the CAP Foundation, 325 Waukegan Rd., Northfield, IL 60093 (or call 800-323-4040 ext. 7749). Monies received will be used for projects that align with Dr. Hamlin’s lifelong interests in the College, its accreditation program, and related quality programs.