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Heroes of Military Medicine Awards Highlight Outstanding Service

Image of Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ron Place, Dr. Michael Helwig and Joseph Caravalho, Jr. posing for the photo. Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ron Place, director of DHA (left); Dr. Michael Helwig, HJF’s 2022 Hero of Military Medicine Civilian Honoree; and Joseph Caravalho, Jr., president and CEO of HJF, at the 2022 Heroes of Military Medicine award ceremony, May 5. (Photo: Courtesy of HJF)

The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine recognizes several heroes of military medicine each year for their outstanding contributions to the field and to enhancing patients' lives.

This year, three active duty doctors from the Army, Navy, and Air Force as well as a senior leader, a medical group, and a medical civilian were honored with medical hero awards for their excellence and dedication.

Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ron Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, offered remarks at this year's award ceremony, May 5, which focused on a new award to recognize civilians in military medicine.

"I'm thrilled that we're able to again gather here in person to recognize the exceptional men and women who exemplify the best in our Military Health System," Place said.

"Overall, we have about 150,000 personnel working in military health, and about 60,000 of those individuals are civilians, nearly 40 percent of our team!"

"Our first Civilian Hero of Military Medicine is a great example of the type of public servants we find in our unique system," he added.

Dr. Michael Helwig, a family medicine doctor at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was the civilian honoree at the event. His career in public health took him on eight deployments during active-duty service in the Army as well as medical exchanges and humanitarian medical missions throughout Latin America.

Place recognized Helwig's long service in uniform as a retired Army colonel who decided to continue his work as a military doctor after reentering the civilian world.

"Like many of you here in this room who once wore a uniform, he recognized 'I love this mission. And I love the people I have the privilege of serving.' And so, since 2016, he continued to serve," Place said.

The active-duty medical professionals who received the medical hero awards include: Army Col. (Dr.) John Csokmay, Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Daniel Hammer, and Air Force Col. (Dr.) Vik Bebarta.

Csokmay serves as chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. His achievements include leading the DOD's largest and only Tri-Service OB-GYN department and directing the department through the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also deployed to Afghanistan as a battalion surgeon with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

Hammer is a maxillofacial surgical oncologist and reconstructive surgeon at Naval Medicine Readiness and Training Command San Diego. He established the Maxillofacial Restorative Surgery Platform at NMRTC-SD, with the mission to be the global leader in the development and delivery of comprehensive maxillofacial restoration of patients. Previously, he served aboard the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as the dental division officer and the ship's oral surgeon.

Bebarta is vice chair of strategy and growth and director of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Center for COMBAT Research. His work has shaped military and civilian emergency trauma care and national policy.

In addition, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville accepted the Senior Leader Award on behalf of the soldiers who responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year's Ambassador Award went to the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group. Air Force Col. (Dr.) Luis Otero and Lt. Col. (Dr.) Elaina Wild received the award on the group's behalf.

The expeditionary medical group's 150 airmen are assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and are responsible for providing care to U.S. service members and coalition partners. The group is the Department of Defense's only expeditionary blood transshipment center and the only individual first aid kit assembly point and certifier for service members between the United States' European, African, and Indo-Pacific Commands.

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Last Updated: May 10, 2022

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