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Life comes full circle for Navy veteran and Williamsburg surgeon

Dr. Valaik
Posted at 10:52 PM, Nov 08, 2021

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – For nearly two years, throughout the pandemic, Dr. Dan Valaik has been helping patients alleviate joint and muscle pain.

But one of his proudest moments of his career, he said was serving his country as an orthopedic surgeon in the U.S. Navy.

“The improvised explosive device is really a homemade bomb and it caused severe orthopedic injuries,” said Valaik. “The body armor was good, but the arms and legs were exposed, so we saw, I saw some of the worst orthopedic injuries ever.”

The former Navy SEAL served in the military for 26 years. He spent most of his career helping hundreds of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the Washington D.C. metro area.

But his military and medical experience really made an impact during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I really felt like now I was 20 plus years in the Navy, but it all, in my mind, had led up to that moment, where I kind of almost felt like this is where all my past training has been for – to take care of these men and women who've been injured in battle,” Valaik said.

Right before Veterans Day, November 11, life came full circle for the former serviceman and orthopedic surgeon.

Just last week, Dr. Valaik took on a new job at Riverside Health after the Buffalo native and his wife moved back to Hampton Roads, which is the first place he was stationed in the 80s.

“In this area, it's amazing now, the number of retired military, veterans that I meet that are working here or a patient, so it's kind of cool to be able to again reconnect with the military a little bit,” said Valaik. “It's good for my patients to know, I've kind of taken care of the worst, I can definitely take care of their problems.”

At Riverside, there’s a total of 13 orthopedic surgeons. Five of them are veterans.