HOUSTON, TX – On Veterans Day 2016, The Woman’s Hospital of Texas salutes one of our own – obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Hunter Hammill, retired colonel Air Force Reserves and founder of the 60J Mission.
In 2013, Dr. Hammill led the effort to make The Woman’s Hospital of Texas a place of care for pregnant women veterans since U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs medical centers at this time do not provide obstetrical services.
“There’s the saying, ‘No soldier left behind,’ but I believe there should be another one – ‘No veteran left alone,’ Dr. Hammill said of what inspired him to expand his practice to address the healthcare needs of women veterans whose pregnancies can be high risk because of age, physical disabilities, emotional traumas and mental health concerns.
Dr. Hammill deepened his commitment to this cause by starting the 60J Mission – a reference to the military job code for obstetrician/gynecologist. He recruited other maternity care doctors to offer “front of the line” care to women veterans.
“Veterans are used to hurry up and wait, but our approach is to put them at the front of the line,” Dr. Hammill said.
He will be honored for his advocacy and clinical care excellence on Saturday, November 12 at the first women veterans’ appreciation brunch hosted by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
“We’re extending our Veterans Day celebrations to two days because we want women veterans to have their own day of honor and recognition,” said Olivia Bush, director of Women Veterans Services for Catholic Charities in the greater Houston area. “Women in the military risk their lives just as men do. But as mothers, caregivers and wives, they make an even deeper sacrifice of time when they are deployed.”
There are more than 21 million living U.S. military veterans of both genders and, of that number, 2 million are women, according to the VA. The federal agency’s data also shows that about 183,000 of the nation’s women veterans reside in Texas. And the largest concentration of women veterans in Texas live in the Greater Houston area, Ms. Bush said.
Much of the healthcare care for women veterans in the Houston area is provided by the Michael E. Debakey VA Medical Center on the edge of the Texas Medical Center. However, being treated at the VA is not always the first option women veterans seek, Bush said.
“A lot of women veterans because of their experiences in the military quite can be gun-shy about going to VA hospitals,” Bush said. “Veterans were not getting any healthcare at all and their health was being neglected. Dr. Hammill got involved to make sure women veterans get the care they need in an environment that feels safe and welcoming to them.”
One of Dr. Hammill’s patients, Heather Weaver, an Air Force veteran, celebrated Veterans Day on Friday at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas by visiting with her newborn. William was born at 36 weeks on Election Day, November 8, and is now receiving care in the Woman’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU.)
Weaver’s Air Force career was cut short by a back injury that led to a medical discharge. But she has not allowed the severe back pain that she lives with daily to limit her life choices. After confirming her pregnancy, Weaver was referred to Dr. Hammill by the VA.
“This is my first pregnancy when I haven’t been active duty,” said Weaver, a mother of three sons. “I have a history of premature babies and when I went to the VA I was having some spotting. They told me I was a high risk and referred me to Dr. Hammill and she saw me right away.”
After addressing her early pregnancy complications, Ms. Weaver and Dr. Hammill had to work out a delivery plan that could accommodate her physical disability. Last year, she had back surgery to relieve some of the pressure on her spine. One concern during her pregnancy was that she would not be able to have an epidural to ease the pain of labor and delivery.
“Anesthesia here at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas is very good and anesthesiologist was able to give her an epidural, which made things much easier and not aggravate her other chronic pains,” Dr. Hammill said.
“Because he’s prior military, Dr. Hammill understands me better than a civilian doctor would,” Weaver said. “He understands how I talk, he understands my anxiety about not being late, and he just understands how I act and what I’ve been through.”
About The Woman’s Hospital of Texas
The Woman’s Hospital of Texas opened in 1976 and is celebrating its 40th year as the state’s premier facility dedicated to the health and well-being of women and newborns. Our founders chose to name the hospital “Woman’s” – not “Women’s” – as a way to honor each patient as an individual and as a daily reminder that the care we give is always personalized and patient focused. Our attention to every detail of the patient experience makes us the top choice for women throughout the greater Houston area and beyond. Our physicians and nurses delivered more than 11,000 babies in 2015 – more than any other hospital in the State of Texas. And with the recent addition of our Pediatric Center, our hospital now offers its high-quality care to children and teenagers. Located near the Texas Medical Center in the heart of Houston, The Woman’s Hospital of Texas has 397 licensed beds, including a 124-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). With more than 650 board-certified physicians, The Woman’s Hospital of Texas offers expertise and outstanding care in breast health, imaging, gynecology, obstetrics, high-risk pregnancy, neonatology and minimally-invasive surgery. In our “40 Years of Caring,” we’ve consistently raised the standards for women’s healthcare in Houston and the State of Texas. We were the first hospital in Houston to earn the Baby-Friendly Hospital distinction from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF.) We also were the first hospital in Texas to be named a National Association for Continence Center of Excellence for Continence Care in Women – one of only six in the nation. The Woman’s Hospital of Texas is accredited by The Joint Commission and recognized by the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists as a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology.
About HCA Gulf Coast Division
HCA Gulf Coast Division is a comprehensive network of hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, emergency centers and diagnostic imaging facilities. It offers a complete continuum of specialized health programs and services that meet the needs of Greater Houston and South Texas’ residents and businesses. HCA affiliated facilities in the Gulf Coast Division include: 13 hospitals, 8 ambulatory centers, 7 off-campus emergency centers, and a regional transfer center that provides one-phone-call access and support for patient transfers into and out of the HCA Gulf Coast Division Affiliated Hospitals, as well as access to ground and air transportation within a 150-mile radius. For more information, visit our website at www.HCAGulfCoast.com.