Murphee Stepanek of Dallas, Texas, recently received both the 2018 Gentle Doctor Award and the Dean Clarence H. McElroy Award. In the 70-year history of the veterinary center, this is only the fourth time a student has earned both awards.
“I was in awe and very honored. Hearing the story behind the Gentle Doctor Award, it’s more than just a trophy,” said Stepanek. “It’s an extreme honor to receive it and know what it stands for. So many people in this class have demonstrated the same qualities that this award represents. They are all worthy of it. I was very flattered and humbled to receive the award.”
The Gentle Doctor Award is a reflection of concern, affection, love, and the significance of life for all of God’s creatures great and small. Created in heroic, larger-than-life proportions, the statue Stepanek received recognizes the strength, endurance, and skillfulness a successful veterinarian would need to possess. Recipients are chosen by class ballot.
When her name was announced as the recipient of the McElroy Award, Stepanek was again surprised.
“I was really in shock to receive that one,” she said of the McElroy Award. “That’s the one people talk about – it’s a biggie. And to see the past winners – professors that I admire, professors that I have learned so much from. To be in that company is just somewhere I never saw myself.”
Created in honor of the founding Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Dean Clarence H. McElroy Award recognizes high academic achievement, leadership and outstanding clinical proficiency. The most prestigious award bestowed upon a graduate of the veterinary center, a ballot of faculty and class peers determines the McElroy Award recipient.
Stepanek wanted to become a veterinarian since she knew what the word meant. Originally, she wanted to do anything with horses but later discovered she enjoys small animal clients more.
“As much as people think we’re in this all for the animals, we’re in it for the owners, too,” explained Stepanek. “I really like the interaction we have with small animal clients. Small animals are like a member of the family. They put a lot of effort into saving those little critters and protecting them from disease. You really see that passion and that dedication towards the patient in those clients.”
She chose Oklahoma State University for her DVM degree after completing her undergraduate work at OSU.
“I was on the equestrian team for all four years of undergrad,” said Stepanek. “Basically, once you go here, they don’t give you any other choice. You bleed orange. The spirit is so contagious. I went on recruit visits to several other universities and that campus pride really was not anywhere else. Everybody here has been just incredible. The teachers that we have here – I cannot tell you how much I have learned. It has just been amazing to work under them. I can tell I am going to stay in a close relationship with them for years to come. They are all such amazing people. It’s been a great experience and it really was the right choice for me.”
While Stepanek has many treasured memories of her time in veterinary college, one stands out.
“I had a patient on small animal surgery who was a paraplegic dog and actually has a little cart. Just recently we got the group of students together that all worked with him. We reunited with him and took a group photo. It was really cool seeing that dog go around and recognize each and every one of us. It was great seeing the teamwork that went into that case. It really paid off because that dog is doing very well. To see him progress and get stronger and see his spirit come back alive after his accident is what makes it all worthwhile.”
Stepanek was one of 80 students who earned their DVM degree on May 11 at Gallagher-Iba Arena on the OSU Stillwater campus. Like many of her classmates, Stepanek has a job waiting for her.
“I got hired at a small animal clinic in Dallas that has a big emergency and critical care department,” said Stepanek. “I will be doing mostly emergency and critical care working the odd hours of the night. I was very lucky to get a job that I love and that I’m excited about. And it’s in my hometown, which I love as well because I’ll be around family.”
And to anyone considering a career in veterinary medicine, young Dr. Stepanek offers this advice.
“It can be very stressful at times,” she said. “You have to have a really great work ethic coming in. It’s not something you will develop while you are here; you have to start with it. You have to have a little bit of a backbone. It is a very, very fulfilling line of work. Be prepared to work and work hard but with that work, expect great rewards.”
Stepanek is the daughter of Shannon and Mark Stepanek of Dallas.