Navy Dentist Honored as the 2022 Navy Hero of Military Medicine

US Navy | 2022-05-06

By André Sobocinski, BUMED Public Affairs

Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Hammer accepts the 2022 Navy Hero of Military Medicine Award, May 5, 2022 at the Heroes of Military Medicine Award Ceremony. Top right photograph: Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Hammer is flanked by Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, Navy Surgeon General, and Dr. Joseph Caravalho, Jr., President and CEO of the Henry Jackson Foundation. (Photographs courtesy Geoff Chesman and André Sobocinski)

Medical Power begins with people on optimized platforms operating as cohesive teams demonstrating high reliability performance.

This is the very foundation of Navy Medicine. And few people illustrate this better than Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Hammer.

Through his work as a Navy dentist, maxillofacial surgical oncologist, reconstructive surgeon, and clinician-leader, Hammer has made significant contributions in shaping the future of maxillofacial restorative surgery and restoration.

On May 5, 2022, Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, Navy Surgeon General and Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED), presented Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Hammer with the 2022 Navy Hero of Military Medicine (HMM) Award. In his introduction, Rear Adm. Gillingham commended Lt. Cmdr. Hammer’s work in improving patient outcomes.

“Under Lt. Cmdr. Hammer’s leadership, Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) San Diego is shaping the future of Maxillofacial Restorative Surgery and Rehabilitation,” said Gillingham. “Through Hammer’s innovative care and collaborative efforts, he was able to develop new clinical pathways leveraging cutting-edge technology that has both reduced recovery time and dramatically improved the lives of service members treated, their families and the readiness of the units they serve.”

HMM is an annual awards banquet hosted by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. (HJF). The event was started in 2011 to recognize the outstanding contributions by military leaders and medical professionals who have distinguished themselves through the “excellence and dedication in enhancing the lives and health of our nation’s wounded, ill and injured service members.” Hammer was one eight honorees at this year’s event.

In his acceptance, Hammer credited his leadership, his team, his family and the “energy and perspective he gets working in collaboration with other dedicated professionals” at NMRTC San Diego. You could say that teamwork and service has long been a driving force for Hammer, even before obtaining his commission.

Throughout college he excelled on sports teams and enjoyed the dynamic of teammates working together to achieve a shared goal. When he began exploring dentistry as a profession he sought this same dynamic. A solo dental practice had no appeal to Hammer.

“When looking how I could finance my dental education the mission and multidisciplinary treatment philosophy of military dentistry strongly resonated with me,” said Hammer.

He chose the Navy to actualize these goals, but also as a tribute to his grandfather who served as one of the Fighting SeaBees in World War II and helped to rebuild Pearl Harbor after the attack. Since June 2011, when he first obtained his commission, Lt. Cmdr. Hammer has kept his grandfather’s Bluejacket Manual handy as a reminder of service to others.

Following residency training in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), Hammer began caring for numerous wounded warriors who suffered grievous injuries in Afghanistan. These experiences proved seminal, and sparked his passion to advance maxillofacial reconstructive techniques to enhance patient outcomes.

In the ensuing years Hammer served as an Assistant Dental Officer at the 2nd Dental Battalion in Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dental Division Officer and Oral Surgeon aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Staff Surgeon at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia, and completed fellowship training in Oral, Head and Neck Oncologic and Microvascular Reconstructive Surgery at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. He received board certification in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in 2019, and was the first U.S. military oral and maxillofacial surgeon to obtain additional certification in Added Qualification in Head and Neck Oncology and Reconstructive Surgery from the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

When Hammer reported to the NMRTC San Diego in July 2020 he established the Maxillofacial Surgery Platform. In less than four months of being founded, this platform performed the first immediate jaw reconstruction with 3D printed teeth in the Department of Defense and the State of California. This was only the third time this procedure had been performed in the United States. Today, Hammer’s platform remains one of the few places in the United States that offers specialized knowledge, experience, coordinated multidisciplinary patient-centered care, and this innovated technology.

“Our platform comprising over 100 team members from 10 departments, has the mission to be the global leader in the development and delivery of comprehensive maxillofacial restoration of our patients with unprecedented outcomes and treatment times,” explained Hammer. “We think beyond reconstruction and seek to comprehensively restore our patients throughout the entire rehabilitative continuum of care.”

Hammer is honored, humbled and feels validated for being recognized for his work and collaborative efforts. But as he states the mission to ensure our warfighters get optimal care and “back to the fight” continues.

“I am honored by the scope of the award, humbled by the word ‘hero’ in its title and validated by the recognition of our team’s relentlessness pursuit to shape the future of maxillofacial restorative surgery and deliver unprecedented care to our warfighters to get them back to the fight.”

For more information about Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Hammer and his work at NMRTC San Diego please see: Immediate Jaw Reconstruction with 3D-Printed Teeth