Dr. Charles Freeman of Hobart, Oklahoma, had no idea he was receiving the veterinarian of the year award when he attended the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association’s annual conference in January 2019.
“The fact that I was selected really meant the world to me,” said Freeman, who earned his DVM degree from Oklahoma State University in 1973. “I was really taken back by the fact that the OVMA got all my children and all of our grandchildren, all 15 of them, to be there. It was really a neat experience and I am humbled and honored to receive the award.”
While practicing veterinary medicine, Dr. Freeman has always felt a responsibility to be involved in organized veterinary medicine by working on committees and up through the officer ranks into leadership positions.
“After chairing several committees and serving as the OVMA president, I had the opportunity to serve as the American Veterinary Medical Association delegate for Oklahoma,” he continued. “That was a great experience.”
Growing up on a livestock and crop farm in rural Oklahoma, young Freeman worked with his father on cattle, horses, sheep, and hogs and learned about growing wheat and cotton.
“Obviously if you have cattle, you’re going to have a heifer that sometimes is not able to deliver her baby properly,” said Freeman. “We had one that could not deliver naturally, which we took to our local veterinarian. He performed a caesarian section on the heifer. As a young man of 11 years old, I was so intrigued with the procedure and how we could help that heifer and save a life and get a live baby calf, I made a decision that day. I said, ‘I’m going to be a veterinarian,’ and I never once changed my mind.”
Being an Oklahoma resident, he focused on attending Oklahoma State University, the only veterinary college in the state. As Freeman neared graduation, he interviewed with several veterinarians.
“They didn’t want to pay me near as much as I thought I was worth,” he said. “I had good confidence that I could make it and so I went to Hobart, bought a piece of property in March of my senior year, and just concentrated on starting a clinic. Within a couple of years, I needed some help so in 1977 I hired a veterinarian and then another in 1978. We had a mixed animal practice with about 80 percent large animal business in the town of Hobart and the surrounding counties that we covered.”
Freeman enjoyed mixed animal practice but in 1995 he left full-time practice to serve Oklahoma’s agriculture industry in another capacity.
“I had no intentions of being involved in politics; however, Governor Frank Keating asked me to be deputy commissioner of the Department of Agriculture,” stated Freeman. “It was an experience that I enjoyed for eight years, after which I was ready to go back to practice.”
By then the Freemans’ youngest son, Dr. Joe Max Freeman (’10), was about to graduate from high school and indicated a great interest in veterinary medicine.
“I challenged him to go to Oklahoma State University, make his grades, and apply to veterinary school. I went to Altus, Oklahoma, and built a real nice small animal clinic,” said Freeman. “We still do limited large animal work there but mostly on the owners’ premises. Joe Max and another classmate of his joined me there and since then, we have hired another young veterinarian. The thing I enjoy the most about veterinary medicine is its tremendous diversity within the profession. There are 50 different jobs that you can do with a veterinary degree. I like the fact that I know so much about so many different species of animals and with the knowledge that we have, I can do something to correct a deficiency or an animal health issue. And we have such a great education. I enjoy being able to change the path of health for an animal and it’s so intertwined with the things that I can do for the owners by relieving an owner’s anxiety over the health of their pet or the health of their herd of livestock. I enjoy communicating with the people—the farmers and the city folks that I’ve worked with over the years. Being able to communicate is a really important part of veterinary medicine.”
Freeman shares his passion for veterinary medicine every chance he gets.
“I’m always talking to the kiddos when they come into the exam rooms or when we’re dealing with cattle and horses outside,” continued Freeman. “If they show some interest, I’ll ask them, ‘how are your grades? What subject do you like?’ If they tell me they are making A’s and B’s I really encourage them to continue and tell them this is the neatest profession. You can do so many things. You can be an animal health consultant, a surgeon, you can work in the field of public health. There’s no end to what you can do as a veterinarian. I constantly encourage young people to think of veterinary medicine. It’s also important to realize that the kind of job they need to do to help their clients and their patients is not always the eight to five job. It is more. Your compassion and your dedication to the profession is so important to make it work for you and for your clientele.”
After practicing for more than 45 years, it’s clear that this year’s Veterinarian of the Year is compassionate and dedicated to the profession, his clients, and their pets and livestock.
“I hope that maybe some of my grandkids will want to do the same thing (veterinary medicine). I know I won’t be able to do this forever. It’s been a great profession; it’s been a great life.”
Also honored at the OVMA’s 2019 Annual Oklahoma Veterinary Conference were Dr. Jennifer Schoonover (OSU CVM ’00) who was named Volunteer of the Year and Dr. Jesse Carter Arnold (OSU CVM ’09) who received the Young Practitioner of the Year award.
MEDIA CONTACT: Derinda Blakeney, APR | OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences | 405-744-6740 | email@example.com