After more than 40 years working as a veterinarian, Dr. Mark Neer is retiring. He spent the last 11 years of his career as director at his alma mater—Oklahoma State University’s Veterinary Medical Hospital.
“I wasn’t even looking for a hospital director position,” recalled Neer. “Dr. Mike Lorenz and I did a couple of anatomy and neurology lectures and labs together at an AVMA meeting where he and Dr. Ken Bartels asked me if I would ever consider hospital director. I told them I hadn’t thought about that. I was pretty content staying at LSU and retiring there in small animal internal medicine. But the more they talked to me about it, I thought well, that might be something interesting. I felt like it would be a good opportunity for me to come back and hopefully do something positive for my alma mater before finishing my career.”
Born in Pittsburg, Kan., Neer’s family moved to Manhattan where his father earned his DVM degree from Kansas State University. His dad had a practice in El Reno, Okla., before moving the family in 1966 to Tulsa, Okla., where Mark finished high school.
When asked when he decided to become a veterinarian, Neer said, “I think that just happened by osmosis. With my father and his brother being veterinarians, I grew up with that. I worked in his practice growing up and found it to be a very challenging profession. I made the decision probably late in high school to go into the veterinary profession. Living in Tulsa, I did my undergraduate work at Oklahoma State so it was a natural fit to go ahead and apply for veterinary school at OSU.”
After earning his DVM degree in 1976, Neer completed an internship at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston, Mass., followed by a three year residency in small animal internal medicine at Kansas State University. Board certified in small animal internal medicine, Neer was on faculty at OSU from 1979 to 1982.
“I then spent two years in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in an internal medicine specialty practice. In 1983, I took a position at LSU Veterinary School where I spent 23 years in internal medicine before moving to Stillwater in 2006 to become hospital director.”
Neer took the position with specific goals in mind.
“I wanted to improve and enhance the people resources in the hospital, meaning all the staff and the team that makes up the hospital. I also wanted to improve RDVM relations, increase caseload for the students who are going through their clinical year, and to provide a hospital that our clients and RDVMs would find as the ultimate in patient care, technology, and provide that to those clients with a compassionate viewpoint from our hospital.”
“I think overall most of those things have been accomplished. We’ve added more than 13 new technician positions in those 11 years. We’ve focused more on the technician positons versus the non-technical positions but we’ve added a few positions there along the way, too, and that’s through some tough budget years. I like to say ‘we.’ It’s not ‘me,’ it’s not ‘I,’ it’s everybody that works in the hospital.”
Neer hopes to be remembered for those accomplishments and for being fair-minded. He also stressed the importance of building a culture of teamwork.
“I hoped we would build a culture of teamwork, comradery, collegiality, servant attitude for everybody to everybody else in the hospital. Whether that’s staff to doctor or doctor to staff because it’s a team approach. So that was real important to me to hopefully instill that culture and I think overall that has occurred.”
And what advice would Neer offer his successor?
“Patience. Realize you can’t do everything that you would want to do and that’s because of the restraints that we have with budget resources. And that’s tough because there are lots of things that I would have liked to accomplish with the facility, the equipment. So realize that sometimes you’re going to have to say no and that’s hard because you would like to meet everybody’s needs.”
And for anyone considering Oklahoma State as the place to earn your DVM degree, Neer offers this.
“It’s a great place to get a thorough education and become a very well-rounded veterinarian at the point of graduation. Even though it’s a small number, the faculty are very dedicated and committed to educating the veterinary student. We may not have every single specialty in the hospital but that’s not the most important thing for a veterinary student coming out; it’s to be very well rounded with large animal exposure, equine, small animal – and they would definitely get that here. It would be a wonderful educational opportunity for them.
“It’s been an honor for me to work with everybody in the veterinary center. And that’s not just the individuals that I work with daily in the hospital but the public relations office, development office, all of those individuals have been a big part of what we’ve accomplished. Going forward, I think the future is bright because we have a great group of individuals who will help the hospital grow.”
Neer has big plans for his retirement. He and his wife Kitty will be having fun with their granddaughter, Harper Grace, who will turn 2 years old in November 2017. His daughter and son-in-law live close to Denton, Texas.
“We want to be involved in everything as Harper grows up. Our plans are to build our retirement home on Lake Fork, which is a great trophy bass lake about two hours east of Dallas, Texas. I’ll do a lot of fishing, riding the big Harley hog, and start playing golf again. And certainly number one, is watching the grandbaby grow up.”