Naval Hospital Bremerton Physician Honored
By Douglas H Stutz
Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs
Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) fondly recognized the contributions of a Navy Medicine career spanning three decades that has impacted countless patients as well as innumerable residents, interns and staff.
Family physician and retired Navy Captain Ronald F. Dommermuth has been a fixture at NHB since he was a young Navy lieutenant in NHB’s Puget Sound Family Medicine Residency (PSFMR) Program from 1991 to 1994.
Between those initial years and his current position, Dommermuth served as a staff physician, followed by ever-increasing assignments with the PSFMR program with the longest tenure associated with the program.
“He came here in 1997 when I was an intern. Since then he’s been a residency team leader, associate residency director, residency director, department head, and director of medical services before retiring from the Navy. Then he served as a faculty and staff member in a GS capacity for approximately 19 and a half years,” said Capt. Brian Smoley, NHB Family Physician and Family Medicine Department Head.
The Residency Program dates back to 1982. It was temporarily closed and then reopened as the PSFMR in 1990 with three interns and two second year resident training officers. Since inception, there have been a total of 197 residents and 133 graduates.
Throughout all those years, perhaps no one epitomized what it stood for more than Dommermuth.
“Dr. Dommermuth has also been here for a clear majority of PSFMR’s existence. He maintains deep knowledge of the program’s history over the years. He has laser focus on advocating for the residents in every possible way. Of course, his unique humor and mischievous nature have added a lot to our morale! His knowledge and scope of practice is one of the broadest in Navy Medicine,” shared Capt. Erik Schweitzer, Medical Corps, family physician, and the last PSFMR program director.
By his own estimate, Dommermuth worked for 14 commanding officers and almost as many executive officers at NHB.
“I have learned a lot of good life lessons from a good many. I have been grateful and lucky to be able to practice doing something I love,” shared Dommermuth, also noting that he’s spent at least two years of his life sleeping at the hospital, trying to catch a few hours of shuteye after a long shift or time-consuming caseload.
Co-workers all have tall tales to fondly tell on Dommermuth and his dedication to his chosen craft of Navy Medicine. Several stories revolve around his office, long known as an incomparable chaotic jumble.
One particular narrative describes how after habitually working late one evening, there were papers strewn all over his office covering every available space when he finally departed, leaving the door unlocked. Later that night he received a call from the command’s Security Department informing him that it appeared that someone had broken into his office and ransacked the place.
After having them describe what his office looked like, Dommermuth calmly told the Security dispatcher that his office always looks like that after a long day at work.
“So if anyone can match that…,” said Dommermuth.
Dommermuth was the keynote guest speaker at the final PSFMR graduation ceremony for the third time in his tenure with the program and shared a lengthy tongue-in-cheek synopsis of each graduate that illuminated their skill set, qualities and capabilities as the Navy’s new family physicians.
“Our overall goal was always to produce the best family physicians we can who are capable of handling all the needs of Navy families and contribute to our Navy mission anywhere in the world,” said Dommermuth.
Providing graduate-level medical education for family physicians was the primary command objective for the program, along with caring and improving the health of all eligible beneficiaries served through patient-centered care, while executing the demands of Mission Readiness.
“I worked with every single resident since 1992. They are spectacular young physicians. They will continue on to do the heavy lifting of Navy Medicine on operational assignments or on overseas tours,” said Dommermuth.
“This is without a doubt in my mind the best teaching hospital in the Navy,” proclaimed Dommermuth in his address during the 2014 PSFMR graduation ceremony, adding back then that due to his ‘finely cultivated personal image,’ he wanted to deliver a memorable speech. After much research he noticed that most speeches fell under one of four categories; educating, inspiring, improving, or entertaining. His technique was to add a bit of each from a reference to the movie, “Caddyshack,” to a healthy dose of his self-depreciating wit.
“Although a clever, well-spoken, humorous, rugged good-looks speaker was requested, unfortunately they’re stuck with me,” he said.
They chose well.
Dommermuth wrapped up by sharing that ‘passion and commitment can help change the world’ and offered a few tips.
“If you ain’t having fun, you not doing it right. A few suggestions: Navy Medicine is a team sport. Keep intellectually curious. Look at dilemmas as opportunities. Encompass new lines of thought and cultivate new ideas. Thank you for giving me a reason to come to work every day,” concluded Dommermuth.
Dommermuth was also presented with the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award for meritorious achievement as Faculty and Staff Physician with PSFMR program at NHB from Nov. 2008 to Dec. 2016.
His citation read, ‘With 19 years of experience in Family Medicine Residency teaching and administration, Dr. Dommermuth provided continuity of teaching and leadership that enabled the PSFMR to become the best, most desired family medicine residency in the Navy. His commitment to high quality, safe patient care contributed to the residency achieving five year accreditation, and 100 percent board certification pass rate for 12 consecutive years. He further distinguished himself as an advisor who provided mentorship and support to department, directorate, and command leadership during his years of civil service. He is a role model for all physician leaders.’
As he usually does, Dommermuth deflected praise from him onto others citing a host of staff members who consistently provided ample skill to help him care for patients and prepare Navy Medicine family physicians for tomorrow.
“I couldn’t live without our Navy nurses, our medical assistants and especially our hospital corpsmen,” Dommermuth said.
Featured Image: From forgotten softball trophies of the early 1980s to recent accolades from innumerable residents, interns and staff of Naval Hospital Bremerton, family physician and retired Navy Capt. Ronald F. Dommermuth has been a fixture in Navy Medicine with a career spanning three decades. He was surprised on his last official day with a holiday-themed pot luck and presented with the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award for meritorious achievement as Faculty and Staff Physician with (the) Puget Sound Family Medicine Residency program at NHB from Nov. 2008 to Dec. 2016 (Official Navy photo by Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs).