A series of features where the Tigers catchup with those who came before and what they have become after graduating from Pacific. Once a Tiger, Always a Tiger
by Zack Bayrouty
Former Pacific Men’s Volleyball player Dan Hammer has always taken on leadership roles, so it should come as no surprise that he’s now caring for the people on America’s front lines.
Hammer, who played volleyball at Pacific from 2004-2007 prior to attending the Dugoni School of Dentistry (Class of 2011), is winding down a four-year stint with the U.S. Navy that has seen him work closely with the Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. At Walter Reed, Hammer is specializing in oral surgery and facial reconstruction for soldiers who have been injured while serving.
“I actually chose to train at Walter Reed because I wanted to do facial reconstruction for the Wounded Warriors,” said Hammer. It was my top choice and I was lucky enough to get matched there for my residency.”
“It really makes you take a second to be thankful for what you have and not take things for granted,” he said. “You might get angry or frustrated during the day for something as small as not having your cell phone charged, but you think about what these people are going through and you realize your small problems are not really that significant.”
In working with the Wounded Warriors, Hammer appears to have found his calling in performing oral and facial reconstruction surgery. The former four-year high school class president and student body president at Dugoni School of Dentistry has just become the president of the Resident Organization of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, a non-profit association serving the specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery which governs 1,100 residents throughout the country.
“In dental school I thought about facial surgery and I did some externships,” said Hammer. “I wanted to be 120% sure that’s what I wanted to do before I committed to it. I did one year of general practice at Walter Reed, got accepted there and then spent 10 months with the Marines before I started my residency in 2013.”
With the Marines, Hammer was a dental officer for the Second Marine Expeditionary Force. He assisted with pre-deployment situations and dental emergencies. In his time with the Marines he became an FMF (Fleet Marine Force) officer and received a Marine pin, which required him to complete both practical and academic components.
Hammer’s propensity for leadership roles can be traced back to his time as an athlete.
“I’ve always liked working with a group of dynamic, motivated individuals who want to work together to make a difference,” he said. “It’s just like winning a game…you’re seeing people meeting their potential.”
Hammer came to Pacific to play volleyball as a freshman after transferring from UC Santa Barbara. The Glendale, Wis. native had narrowed his choices down to Pacific and UC Santa Barbara out of high school. He chose the latter initially, but quickly amended his decision after just a short time on the Central Coast. The relationship he cultivated with the Pacific men’s volleyball staff came in handy when he found himself in need of a change of scenery.
“It was a really tough time for me,” said Hammer. “I moved from the Midwest to Santa Barbara and there were a couple of things that fell through for me. I called (former head men’s volleyball coach, now associate head women’s volleyball coach) Joe Wortmann and let him know what the situation was. Without even thinking twice about it they were so welcoming and said, ‘we’re here for you, let us know how we can support you’. It was really a no-brainer after that.”
Much has happened since Hammer last suited up for the Tigers, most notably the elimination of the men’s volleyball program following the 2014 season. Though he feels the loss of the program, Hammer also sees beyond the lack of a physical presence of men’s volleyball on campus.
“I was disappointed, to say the least,” he said. “But when it comes to the men’s volleyball team, you can’t really measure men’s volleyball at Pacific based on wins and losses. Obviously that’s a huge component in measuring any sports team or business, but I think you need to take a look at what Pacific men’s volleyball did for the other teams on campus, the leadership roles they took on campus in the Greek community and in the athletic department. They were the student-athletes who were the most involved.”
In addition to the memories, Hammer cites the legacy left by the men’s volleyball program.
“I’m really proud of what Pacific men’s volleyball was. You look at our alumni…there are a number of former Pacific men’s volleyball players coaching on the D-1 level and that’s pretty awesome. To produce alumni that are doing as much as we’re doing, it’s a real credit to coach Wortmann.”
Hammer is currently finishing his four-year tenure with the Navy and has many options once his service time is up.
“I’m applying for fellowships right now and looking into oncology and reconstruction,” he said, “The goal with that is to learn how to care for and treat cancer patients, but my overall goal is to learn reconstructive techniques to bring back to the Wounded Warriors to advance their facial reconstruction.”
People on the front lines tend to look after one another.