Major General Lester Martínez-López has been confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. In this position he is the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense and the Undersecretary of Defense on all matters relating to military healthcare and medical research programs within the Department of Defense.
Dr. Martínez-López was the first Hispanic individual to head the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland. There he oversaw research on a wide range of subjects, including cancer, trauma, infectious diseases, biodefense, chemical defense, nutrition, environmental health, aviation medicine, and telemedicine research. He was the Chief Medical Officer of the United Nations’ Mission in Haiti. He headed up three military hospitals during his career in the U.S. Army and has also served as the Commanding General of the Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine.
His awards include the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Three Oak Clusters, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Army’s Meritorious Service Medal with three oak clusters, the Senior Flight Surgeon Badge, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Medal, and the Woodrow Wilson Award for Distinguished Government Service from Johns Hopkins University.
After retiring from his military career, he took the position of Chief Medical Officer at the Brandon Regional Hospital in Florida and then Senior Vice President and Administrator of the Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital in Texas. He then headed up a private consulting firm, Martinez Medical Consulting.
Major General Lester Martinez-Lopez was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and grew up in Maricao, Puerto Rico. Dr. Martínez-López earned his MD at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, as well as a Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University.
It takes a village
Asked why he wanted to take on this challenging appointment, Dr. Martinez-Lopez said, “It is an opportunity, a calling, to continue my life’s work, which has always been about taking care of people. There is no greater duty than to ensure the health of the people who serve our country selflessly and with great sacrifice, and I am truly grateful for this chance to make a difference for them.”
He also repeated the saying, “It takes a village,” explaining that for him the village begins with his family. Martinez-Lopez has often spoken of the importance of family support for veterans. He is known for his commitment to mental health and environmental health in particular.
Photo courtesy of NARA