Dec. 24, 2021 -- Kristy Hammam, WebMD’s former editor-in-chief and senior vice president, has died of breast cancer. She was 50 years old.
Kristy resigned from a 22-year career at WebMD in June 2021, after losing much of her eyesight as a result of treatments in her fight against triple-negative breast cancer. She recounted her diagnosis and her experience as a patient in a recent feature story for WebMD.
In the story, she talked about the difficulties of navigating the U.S. health care system while dealing with cancer, and it was her dream to start a nonprofit to help other patients who had less support than she did.
Kristy was instrumental in creating the annual Health Heroes Awards to help WebMD recognize standouts in health and medicine. From cancer survivors, to researchers who are changing lives and young people who reprsent the best future of health and medicine, Health Heroes became a unique forum for the brightest lights in the industry.
Kristy began her career as a writer and copy editor at CNN before joining the medical news service Greenberg News Networks, where she produced a daily broadcast for Medcast. She was eventually promoted to head of programming. Greenberg was acquired by Healtheon and WebMD, and she continued to grow with the company to become its editorial director, in charge of most of the operations of WebMD’s Atlanta office.
Kristy was known by her colleagues for the skills she brought to her work tasks and for many personal traits that were highly valued. She was admired for her grace, kindness, compassion and the way she made everyone feel important, such as listening respectfully and seeking out views that may have been different from her own during meetings. She would often encourage people to take risks and was often the first to celebrate her colleagues’ professional accomplishments and personal joys.
“Her door was always open,’’ said Kristy’s former executive assistant Mary Cooper. “She always had time for someone else.”
Mary remembers that Kristy asked her to speak in a company meeting, and she demurred, telling her boss she was shy.
“You are not shy!” Kristy told her. “You may be uncomfortable addressing a group, but I feel that you do it well, so you will be speaking.”
Beloved by her co-workers at WebMd, Kristy encouraged the company to engage more with its communities and organized paid volunteer days for staff.
“No one had a bigger impact on my career at WebMD than Kristy,” said Michael Smith, MD, a former chief medical editor at WebMD. “She helped shape who I am today both personally and professionally. Her impact will always be felt."
In the office, Kristy championed the idea of an events committee and helped organize events that became company traditions, such as a Halloween party and a potluck Thanksgiving dinner that made many of our family feasts pale by comparison.
Kristy was instrumental in helping to shape WebMd through the years. For example, she played a key role in building out medical reference for consumers to include award-winning health news, features and videos. One of the proudest moments for Kristy and her colleagues was when a video about schizophrenia was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival.
“Right from the start, Kristy did an amazing job,” said Steve Zatz, MD, former chief executive officer at WebMD. “She was able to juggle all these disparate responsibilities that she had and do them superbly. She could wrangle celebrities and spreadsheets with equal skill.”
Even after she was diagnosed with cancer and started chemotherapy, Kristy actively guided the editorial team through a merger with Internet Brands.
Kristy earned degrees in English and art History from Emory University. She is survived by her husband Nabil, and her sons Milo and Evan, along with their extended family.
“We are thinking that she still has so much more to do, just in a different place,” said Kristy’s mother, Marilyn Lawson.