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Justin (left), Wade and Marin McCrary offer comprehensive care across diverse species, providing veterinary services for both small and large animals.

Perfecting Practice: Three generations dedicate their lives to veterinary medicine in rural Oklahoma

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Media Contact: Sophia Fahleson | Digital Communications Specialist | 405-744-7063 | sophia.fahleson@okstate,edu

In the heart of rural Oklahoma in 1969, Dr. Edward McCrary opened the McCrary Veterinary Hospital. Three generations later, McCrary veterinarians continue to care for animals and serve their community in Watonga, Oklahoma.

Ed McCrary received his undergraduate degree in agricultural education at Oklahoma State University with every intention of becoming an agricultural education teacher, said Justin McCrary, his nephew. However, after graduation, Ed McCrary entered the U.S. Army. After returning home, he decided to pursue veterinary medicine and applied for veterinary school at OSU in 1953.

“Edward’s older brother, Dean, was an agricultural education teacher for a short time then returned to OSU and got his doctorate in agriculture,” said Justin McCrary, who now owns the McCrary Veterinary Hospital. “That may have been a driving force for Ed to return for a higher education.”

Ed McCrary’s determination was second to none, Justin McCrary said. He hitchhiked 95 miles to Stillwater, Oklahoma, from Watonga, Oklahoma, at the beginning of veterinary school.

While at OSU, he worked in the laundromat at the school and did laundry and ironing for people around campus to pay for his education and other living necessities. 

After walking across the graduation stage in 1958, Ed McCrary practiced in Alexandria, Louisiana, and then moved to Frederick, Oklahoma. Ed McCrary moved back to Watonga, Oklahoma, in 1968 where he practiced out of his parents’ house for a year before opening McCrary Veterinary Clinic. 

“I could not believe the number of interactions he had daily with such a wide variety of community members,” Justin McCrary said. “I suppose it was then I recognized the integral role veterinarians have in a rural community.”

As a high school student, Justin McCrary worked for his uncle and continued helping while in college at OSU.

Graduating from OSU College of Veterinary Medicine at age 24, Justin McCrary joined his uncle’s practice, but he found himself solely responsible for McCrary Veterinary Hospital at age 27.

Following the death of his uncle Ed McCrary from pancreatic cancer in the spring of 1998, Justin McCrary took on the challenge of running the clinic. 

Today, Justin McCrary works every day alongside Maryl, his wife of 29 years. She graduated from OSU in 1995 with a bachelor’s in biology. She spent 20 years teaching high school chemistry, anatomy and biology. She retired from teaching in 2019 to manage the veterinary hospital full time, handling bills, appointments, inventory and everything in between.

“Mom is a huge part of how the clinic has stayed up and running,” said Marin McCrary, Justin and Maryl McCrary’s daughter.

Wade McCrary, Justin and Maryl McCrary’s son and the youngest of the McCrarys, said he and his sister were influenced by their dad to pursue veterinary medicine.

The McCrary siblings’ passion for animals started at a young age, Wade McCrary said.

The pair spent countless hours traveling with their dad on farm calls and helping in the office whenever they could, he added.

“Growing up, I spent numerous hours at the clinic with my father,” Marin McCrary said. “Wade and I would ride the bus after school to the clinic and stay until closing time.” 

Creating countless memories with her family and assisting at the vet clinic after school every day nurtured Marin McCrary’s enthusiasm for veterinary medicine, she added.

Whether assisting in the office helping their mom or pitching in with the day-to-day tasks on the farm, the McCrary children gained firsthand experience in the complexities of managing a farming enterprise, Justin McCrary said. Both children will be able to use those experiences to help them in their education and future careers.

“I am excited for both of my kids to be entering the field of veterinary medicine with limitless options for employment,” Justin McCrary said.

Today, Marin and Wade McCrary are students in the OSU-CVM.

Marin McCrary, a second-year veterinary student, will graduate with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2026. Wade McCrary plans to graduate in 2027 with his DVM.

Following graduation in 2027, Wade McCrary said his primary focus is to pursue opportunities in a mixed animal medicine practice, learning skills at another clinic and then returning home to practice alongside his father.

“As a second-year veterinary student, I still have not fully decided which sector of the veterinary field I will pursue after graduation,” Marin McCrary said. “I have a passion for food animal medicine, and I am considering going into the food safety sector of veterinary medicine.”

The primary challenge the McCrary family has faced as multi-generational veterinarians is the rural veterinarian shortage in western Oklahoma, Marin McCrary said.

“The veterinary field in general is facing shortages,” Marin McCrary said. “But, rural medicine has felt the effects the most.”

 The McCrary family has made it their mission to ensure western Oklahoma has access to quality veterinary medicine for many years to come, she added.

“Growing up, I was able to experience firsthand how important veterinarians are to the community,” Marin McCrary said. “I was inspired by my father and the impact that he has on his clients’ and patients’ lives.”

Justin McCrary’s children see him as a role model because he exhibits how rewarding the veterinary field can be each day, Wade McCrary said.

“Dad makes being a veterinarian and a parent at the same time look effortless,” Wade McCrary said.

Justin and Maryl McCrary instilled the ability to work hard and care for others into their children, Marin McCrary said.

“My dad’s work-life balance allowed me to envision myself as a veterinarian,” Marin McCrary said. “I ultimately decided I was meant to follow in his footsteps.”

Story by: Victoria Allen | Cowboy Journal

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