Neurosurgeon adds Army Reserve to his busy schedule

| March 30, 2017 | 0 Comments
Col. (Dr.) Daniel Donovan, neurosurgeon, 1984th U.S. Army Hospital Pacific, center, stands with recruiters Staff Sgt. SSG Kelly McWhirter, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Scott Hollenbeck, center leader, Honolulu Medical Recruiting Center, 6th Medical Recruiting Battalion, Medical Recruiting Brigade after he commissioned as a colonel in the Army Reserve on Feb. 17, 2017.  (Photo courtesy of Col. (Dr.) Daniel Donovan)

Col. (Dr.) Daniel Donovan, neurosurgeon, 1984th U.S. Army Hospital Pacific, center, stands with recruiters Staff Sgt. SSG Kelly McWhirter, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Scott Hollenbeck, center leader, Honolulu Medical Recruiting Center, 6th Medical Recruiting Battalion, Medical Recruiting Brigade after he commissioned as a colonel in the Army Reserve on Feb. 17, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Col. (Dr.) Daniel Donovan)

Gini Sinclair
U.S. Army Recruiting Command

HONOLULU — The U.S. Army Medical Department welcomed the return of a neurosurgeon and a brand new colonel.

Dr. Daniel Donovan was sworn in by retired Col. (Dr.) Christopher Klem in a ceremony in Donovan’s office at the Queen’s Medical Center.

Klem was the chief of the Otolaryngology Clinic (ear, nose and throat) at Tripler Army Medical Center before leaving the military.  Today, he is a head and neck surgeon at the Queen’s Head and Neck Institute and an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Hawaii.

Donovan got out of the Army in 2005, with the rank of lieutenant colonel, after 14 years.  He stayed in Hawaii, and said that after 18 years of living here, Honolulu is home. But he wanted to return to the military.

In the fall of 2012, he walked into the Honolulu Recruiting Center, 6th Medical Recruiting Battalion, Medical Recruiting Brigade, to find out about joining the Army Reserve as a neurosurgeon.

“I know others I work with who are members of the Army Reserve,” Donovan said.  “Fortunately, there is a reserve hospital at Fort Shafter where I can work.”

Sgt. 1st Class Connie Ramon, an assistant health care recruiter, Honolulu Medical Recruiting Center, was the first recruiter to assist Donovan.

“The first thing I thought when I met Dr. Donovan was that he had a kind smile,” Ramon said. “Then I noticed how tall he is (6 feet, 3 inches). I was excited to meet someone who, after being out for some time, just wanted to serve again. Dr. Donovan is one of those surgeons you just want to be around or even shadow if you have the privilege of doing so.”

After gathering all the documents needed and filling out application forms, Donovan’s packet was ready for a board for review. Each medical professional is screened and their credentials reviewed by other medical professionals to judge suitability for commissioning into the Army.

“Then it happened,” Donovan said. “I was sued for the first time ever. On the average, neurosurgeons are sued every two years. This was my first time, and I received a call from the recruiter saying we needed to wait until the trial was over. It went to trial two-an one-half years later. The jury came back with a unanimous verdict in my favor, and the suit was dismissed.”

After Ramon left Honolulu, Donovan worked with Sgt. 1st Class Scott Hollenbeck, center leader, Honolulu Medical Recruiting Center.

With the trial over, Donovan learned he would now need a waiver to get into the military. The wait had put him past the limit of age 51 to join. Normally, the age for a medical professional entering the military is 42. Because Donovan was returning to the Army as a colonel, he could enter at 51 with a waiver. He waited for the waiver, and at the age of 53 realized his ambition to return to military medicine.

“I enjoyed my time in the Army,” Donovan said, “I stayed several years after my initial obligation. The training was professional. I enjoyed practicing (medicine) in the Army.”

Donovan said he got into medicine because of his father, an internal medicine doctor, a “real old-fashioned doctor” who was close with his patients.

Donovan went to medical school through the Army medical scholarship, the Health Professions Scholarship Program. He attended Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In his fourth year, Donovan went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He worked with neurosurgery residents in training for a month and was offered a position in the residency program.

He spent the next seven years there and completed his training in 1998.  He was also assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he worked at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center. From there, he transferred to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.

“While I was on active duty at Tripler, I went on temporary duty to Mongolia,” he said. “I went to teach their medical professionals. Later, after I left the Army, I paid for a trip to go back. Eventually, I got donations of medical equipment and had over $8 million worth of medical equipment donated. I go one time a year for a couple of weeks.”

Along with his new role in the Army Reserve, assigned to the 1984th U.S. Army Hospital Pacific, Donovan is a member of a private neurosurgery practice group in Honolulu, and affiliated with both the Queen’s Medical Center and Tripler. Donovan is also a partner in a nonprofit that provides medical care to patients in Mongolia.

He works with two partners in the private practice and does a lot of administrative paperwork associated with medical practice. His method of ensuring he was doing things correctly was to go back to school.

He graduated from George Washington University with a Master of Business Administration. As a result of keeping records and filing taxes for the nonprofit, Donovan decided to return to school for another degree. In 2012, he earned a Master of Science in Healthcare Management from Harvard University.

While working at Tripler in 2003, Donovan was deployed to Kuwait where he was assigned to a combat support hospital.

“I missed the camaraderie of the military medical teams,” Donovan said. “I missed being part of something bigger. I enjoyed serving at the combat support hospital. That is medicine cut to the bone.

“A patient came in and everyone did their best,” he explained. “We were all committed to what needs to be done. It’s something you see in medicine, even more so in a combat hospital.”

Donovan says he plans to stay in Hawaii, and he is eager to see what things are like in the Army Reserve. He recently made his first trip on base in many years to purchase things he needed for a uniform he has kept since 1988.

When not working 70 or 80 hours a week (down from 100) at his private practice, Donovan can be found outdoors enjoying hiking and the water sports of wind surfing, paddling an outrigger canoe and sailing.

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Category: Leadership, News

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