Dr. Val Gene Iven goes over some medical issues with Marcus Smart, an OSU basketball star from 2012-14. [PHOTO BY BRUCE WATERFIELD, OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY]
Val Gene Iven grew up in Pond Creek, north of Enid, then graduated from OSU and the OU Health Sciences. In 1993, he became the team doctor for University of Tennessee athletics. In 2007, Iven returned to OSU in the same role. Iven’s brother, Van Shea, was the longtime Channel 4 sports reporter who now is on staff with the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
I was born in Enid. I’d have had to be born at the house if I was born in Pond Creek.
Growing up in Pond Creek, small-town values, to me those are the best days of my life. Just because the community, your work ethic, growing up on a farm, school system, everybody in town knew you. Can’t beat that.
I thought at a pretty early age I wanted to be a doctor. Probably somewhere in the junior high years. I loved the farm life but had terrible allergies, just couldn’t be around wheat dust. I could be on the tractor, but the wheat dust just ate me up. So I kind of thought, I want to be a doctor. Had a great role model in Enid, my pediatrician, Dr. (Robert) Shuttee. Went to college, and that’s the route I went and never wavered.
Got my M.D. from OU Health Sciences Center. Stayed there, did my residency there in family medicine. Then stayed there and did a fellowship in primary care sports medicine. I was the first fellow that they had in primary care sports medicine.
I thought I wanted to go into medicine and probably thought early on, I just liked kids, maybe going into pediatrics. But I loved sports. Grew up around sports. Tried to combine the two worlds.
Right out of my fellowship, ’93, there were a couple of openings at Division I, Tennessee and Florida. Interviewed with both. Tennessee, got the call back from them first. Didn’t know anybody at Knoxville or anybody affiliated with the university. I remember telling mom and dad, I’m going to go do this for two or three years and I’ll be back. Dad reminded me of that when I came back 13 years later.
This job is a lot that you don’t learn in med school. There’s just so much nowadays, from the NCAA, from the Big 12. It’s much more than just being a physician. From all the things we do in regards to training, from rehabilitation, from nutrition, the whole world of drug testing. All of the people that you have to communicate with nowadays, in regards to coaches and administrators and families. So it’s grown so much over the years, it’s just a full-time job.
The opportunity brought me back to Stillwater. I had kept in contact with people. And Dr. (Mark) Pascale, our orthopedist, called and said the team physician, Dr. Ken Smith, who had replaced Dr. (Donald) Cooper, decided he was just going to fulfill a role in the student health center and they were looking for somebody full time. It was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Your folks are back in Oklahoma. My grandmother at the time was nearing 100. Kids having the opportunity to be around their grandparents. Being back at your alma mater.
Great opportunity in the SEC, meet those people. Now back at your alma mater for 10 years. I’ve just been blessed.
I missed most of Coach (Eddie) Sutton. But yeah, we’ve had unprecedented times now, in regards to the run we’ve had in football, in particular. When I first got back in ’07, we were in the process of building. I remember (growing up) sitting in the end zone, wasn’t bowled in. Dad and I would drive over on a Saturday, just for the game, drive back. Just wasn’t near the world it is now, game day or facilities. So we’ve come a million miles.
Van Shea is six years younger. Mom thought she was pretty clever with our names. Dad’s name is Gene. So she started with Val Gene. She’d heard there was a Val Gene’s restaurant. I think that was part of it. And once she came up with Val Gene, she couldn’t go with Frank. So she had to come up with something. And we’ve both been called each other’s names.
I’m completely just Van Shea’s brother. Anywhere I go, anybody I’m introduced to, it’s all, Oh, your Van Shea’s brother. And I’m proud of that.
Pond Creek is our roots. That’s your family. That’s what you’re always going to remember and go back to in life in regards to kind of where you got your values and knowing people. I credit a lot of things I’ve learned through the years, dating back to my days from grade school and high school in Pond Creek.
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