In Memoriam: Remembering Clark B Hanmer, MD

March 30, 2017


Dr. HanmerOn Feb. 1, 2017, the day nominations for the 2017 NC Doctor of the Year opened, Dr. Paul Fuchs, a family physician in Laurel Hill, NC, was one of the first to submit a nomination. He nominated Clark B. Hanmer, MD, a fellow family physician in Scotland County. He had become close with Dr. Hanmer over the past months, and nominated him because, as he said in his nomination: “I am a better person and a better physician for having known him.” Dr. Hanmer’s story is unique, and below Dr. Fuchs explains why.

Clark B. Hanmer, M.D., was a good physician but an even better man. He was a solo, independent physician who practiced family medicine in Laurinburg from 2004 to 2015. Prior to the time in Laurinburg, Dr. Hanmer served in the National Health Service Corps; was as an Associate Director of a Family Medicine Residency in Ohio; worked as a quality control officer for a large Ohio hospital system; was the Chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at Gundersen Clinic in Wisconsin; and worked as a medical software developer. This is an impressive list of professional accomplishments. It is not these feats, however, but rather what Dr. Hanmer achieved after closing his practice in late 2015 that commands our attention, garners respect and admiration, and uniquely qualifies him as NC Doctor of the Year.

Dancing with My Cancer DemonAlthough dying from a rare cancer, Dr. Hanmer accomplished more during the last months of his life than most of us will ever accomplish in our lifetime. He wrote and published an extraordinary memoir “Dancing with My Cancer Demon: All the Way to a NIH/NCI Immunotherapy Clinical Trial”; utilized an online journal to keep his friends and patients informed of his status and to elicit feedback and comments; participated in an NIH clinical trial; was the main catalyst for and a major contributor in a NIH Grand Rounds on ethics; presented a lecture on “Wisdom” for residents and faculty at the UNC-CH Department of Family Medicine; took and easily passed The American Board of Family Medicine recertification examination; was interviewed on several radio stations about the book and his “dance with cancer”; conducted a book signing at a local retirement community where many of his former patients lived; reunited and performed with his old barbershop quartet at a local nursing home; and, shortly before he died, spoke at the UNCP Library Author Focus Program.

Dr. Hanmer never lost his keen sense of humor or his intellectual curiosity. With the assistance of his loving wife, Debby, and his two children, he died with dignity and grace at home on Feb. 3, 2017. He exemplified the late Jim Valvano’s iconic clarion call – “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up”. Dr. Hanmer never did. He was and is an inspiration to his patients, friends and family, and our own medical community. We should celebrate his successes and accomplishments (and read his book) as we simultaneously mourn his death. We should rededicate ourselves to follow his example to continuously strive for excellence. Thank you, Clark.


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