Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Skywayman: The Story of Frank W. Abagnale Jr.

Calling Dr. Williams

While in Atlanta, Frank found an elegant and youthful residential community where he decided to lease an apartment for the duration of one year. According to Abagnale's book, Frank listed his occupation as an out-of-town doctor while filling out his leasing application, hoping it would deter any background check on his identity. When questioned about his profession, he informed the leasing manager that he was a pediatrician taking a break from his duties to catch up on much deserved rest and relaxation.

One day, a doctor who recently moved into the community paid an unexpected visit to Frank at his new home. Frank was nervous at first, fearing that the doctor would realize he was a fake. However, he learned that the doctor was not as interested in talking shop as he was about women. After meeting on several occasions and getting to know each other, the two learned that they had a great deal in common and, before long, they became friends.

The doctor asked Frank if he would like one day to pay a visit to the hospital where he worked and Frank readily agreed. Frank's one visit to the hospital turned into numerous visits and he gradually became acquainted and friendly with other hospital staff. Eventually, he was granted access to the medical library, which delighted him because he was eager to learn as much as he could about his new role as a pediatrician.

Frank's obvious eagerness and pleasant disposition caught the attention of the hospital's administrator who asked him one day to a meeting. Frank accepted but he couldn't ignore his nagging fear that maybe the man had caught onto the fact that he was an imposter. To his surprise, the administrator made the most unusual proposition. He asked Frank to take a temporary position at the hospital supervising medical interns during the night shift to replace a doctor who had to leave unexpectedly. Although Frank initially refused, the administrator was able to persuade him to take up the position. Before long, Frank was appointed to the hospital as a resident supervisor and given authorization to temporarily practice in the state of Georgia.

Frank used humor to cover the fact that he lacked the basic knowledge of a pediatrician. If he didn't know something or was asked an uncomfortable question, he would joke about it and skirt around the issue, often leaving the actual details of the work to other resident doctors. His wit and humor worked well for him. It successfully covered his ignorance, but at the same time also earned him a reputation as a jovial, if eccentric, doctor who was much liked by the hospital staff.

Frank was able to maintain his position as a supervising doctor because he was not expected to actually perform any medical procedures on patients. He knew that the moment he was asked to tend to a patient and make clinical decisions, his cover would be blown due to his lack of medical knowledge. It was only a matter of time before Frank's charade would be tested, prompting him to rethink his potentially dangerous game.

One day, a child was brought into the hospital's emergency room with a leg injury. Frank was called into action to assist. Instead of treating the patient himself, he left the work to his interns who were eager to impress their supervisor. Frank managed the situation, yet it concerned him greatly that he was actually responsible for the lives of people. It was no longer a game to him.

According to an article in About.com, Frank made the decision to leave the hospital at that moment, realizing that he could have endangered the child's life. He resigned shortly thereafter, having worked at the hospital for a little less than a year. He also made plans to leave the state. Frank's next destination was Louisiana, where once again his life took another unexpected turn.

 

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