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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Retired Oral Cancer Scientist Hamner Is Mourned

Dr. Hamner III

Dr. James E. Hamner III

Dr. James E. Hamner III died June 6 at age 88. An internationally renowned pathologist and author of numerous scientific books and articles, he enjoyed a distinguished career with the National Institute of Dental Research (now NIDCR) and NCI over many years, with a particular focus on oral cancer research. 

Hamner served as chief of the oncology section in NIDR’s Experimental Pathology Branch (1962-1973) and as chief of the NIH primate research unit at Southwest Foundation for Research (now Texas Biomedical) from 1969 to 1972.

There he conducted studies on carcinogenesis and natural and artificial tooth implantation with emphasis on plastics and ceramics. He also looked into reimplantation of teeth following injury and delved into periodontal disease.

From 1973 to 1982, Hamner served as an NCI branch chief and associate director for intervention programs in NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Rehabilitation. 

Following retirement from NIH, he became a special assistant to then-Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph Califano.

For more than 30 years, Hamner directed a large oral cancer project in coordination with WHO, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in India and NIH. He was also part of a collaborative team of American and Russian physicians researching breast cancer.

Hamner retired as a captain in the Public Health Service and returned to his hometown of Memphis, where he served as associate vice chancellor for the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences and professor of pathology in the medical school, among many other duties and responsibilities.

He is survived by wife Catherine, 2 sons, the Rev. Dr. James E. Hamner IV and Dr. H. Wentzell Hamner, 11 grandchildren and 1 great-grandson.

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