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30-year Victoria orthopedic surgeon retires forms lifelong bind with young doctor

By BY J.R. ORTEGA
July 25, 2010 at 2:25 a.m.
Updated July 26, 2010 at 2:26 a.m.


DR. MARK STEVENS - EDUCATIONStroman High School in Victoria

Texas A&M University in College Station

University of Texas at San Antonio

San Jacinto Methodist Hospital

DR. RUDY PENA - EDUCATIONSt. Joseph High School

Victoria College

University of Houston

La Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara

University of Texas at San Antonio

Internship at Toledo Hospital in Toledo, Ohio

Louisiana State University of New Orleans

The chance of Drs. Mark Stevens and Rudy Pena wearing the same blue-checkered polo tee to their interview is not that improbable.

But the chance for the two Victoria physicians to form a 30-year bond through an unfortunate accident is something that can't be explained, said Pena, who retired earlier this month from his 30-year orthopedic surgery practice.

"That was a complete coincidence," Pena said as he sat in Stevens' office. "All I knew was they needed someone to help this young man."

When Stevens was 15 years old, he was involved in a motorcycle accident on Red River Street, breaking his leg in three places.

Stevens needed help fast, and, unknown to Pena, he was about to see his first patient from Victoria.

That was 1980.

OF THE SAME CLOTH

Stevens stands in the hallway of his family practice, checking in on one of his patients on a stretcher.

Back in his office, a black, outdated stethoscope that Pena gave Stevens serves as a constant reminder of their still growing personal and professional relationship.

"After my experience and meeting Dr. Pena and spending the time I did with him, I really decided for sure I was going to go into medicine," Stevens said as Pena gazed off humbly. "For me, it was really a life-changing experience because had that not happened, I don't know what I'd be doing. "

In their professional experience, Stevens has always been able to count on Pena when it comes to advice about life or medicine.

They each have referred patients to one another and they each came back from medical school to Victoria to give back to their hometown.

Despite Pena's retirement, Stevens said the medical community will continue to be strong.

"Victoria has an exceptional medical community that people don't fully realize," he said.

RETIREMENT WOES

Donned in a cowboy hat and Ostrich boots, Pena remembers when the thought of retirement became clear.

In 2000, he was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, or cancer of the bile duct.

After a year of recovery, he went back to orthopedic surgery but only practiced office orthopedics, not surgery.

"I had the choice of continuing surgery," he said. "But if I did, I would be putting myself into a lot of stress. So I elected not to."

As the economy began to take a turn for the worst, so did orthopedic practice, Pena said.

The overhead costs to keep an orthopedics office open without performing surgery just became too much, he said.

Of all he had to do in orthopedics, that was one of the hardest decisions.

"That's really the main reason I decided to close the office," he said in a solemn tone. "It's gonna be all right."

Pena has plenty to do at his ranch on the outskirts of Victoria, he said.

A gold deer pin on his hat shows his love of hunting.

He is also a pilot.

"I have a big trophy room," he said smiling. "I've hunted all over the world. I've got a lot of hobbies."

The relationship between Stevens and Pena will continue, even though Pena has retired.

Already, Stevens continues to follow in the same footsteps as his mentor.

"That's why we settled here, we came back here and we stay here, and I'll retire here," Stevens said.

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