Exceptional times call for exceptional actions.
The Coat of Excellence recognition program at the NC State Veterinary Hospital usually honors a clinician or support staff member who provides top-notch service to individual pets and their owners.
But not always.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the world with a multitude of challenges, from how to treat the disease to how to safely go about daily life. That includes figuring out how to continue providing necessary veterinary care while protecting the health and safety of medical workers and clients.
The burden of finding those answers at NC State has fallen most heavily on Steve Marks. As clinical professor of critical care and internal medicine and associate dean and director of veterinary medical services, Marks oversees all of the veterinary hospital’s medical services. It is up to him to provide the day-to-day leadership that balances the needs of clients with safe practices that protect all concerned from exposure to COVID-19.
NC State responded quickly to the crisis, becoming one of the first veterinary hospitals in the nation to enact curbside service to reduce person-to-person exposure. The hospital also provided two ventilators and other vital medical supplies when they were in short supply, including masks, to the UNC School of Medicine and its hospitals to support the fight against the pandemic.
Marks’ work has not gone unnoticed. He has provided steady and effective leadership while being a visible and motivational presence for clients and hospital personnel. In May, he was recognized by his colleagues with the Huffman Leadership Award, one of the highest awards that can be presented to a member of the CVM faculty.
And it’s why, after three months of guiding the hospital through uncharted waters, Marks received more special recognition.
Randy and Susan Ward are longtime clients, benefactors and friends of the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. Susan Ward is past president of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation and continues to serve as a member of its board of directors. After taking note of Marks’ singular performance under unprecedented circumstances, the Wards were moved to express their appreciation. They awarded Marks a Coat of Excellence, which honors impactful faculty clinicians, interns, residents or support staff members.
“Dr. Marks has been a selfless and tireless worker,” Susan Ward says. “He has made the hard calls and led the hospital through difficult times. When I heard that he had never received a Coat of Excellence, I said ‘we can take care of that.’”
So they did, surprising Marks with an impromptu presentation on a warm June afternoon, protective face masks in place, on the CVM campus.
CVM Dean Paul Lunn said the honor recognizes not only a great person but a “real leader.”
“Dr. Steve Marks fills one of the toughest and most demanding jobs in any veterinary college and is steering us through the most difficult challenge this college has ever faced. I don’t think anyone is more trusted and appreciated in our leadership, I’m lucky to count him as a colleague and a friend.”
The award is particularly meaningful to Marks, who began his career as a clinician before transitioning into supervisory leadership roles.
“When I moved into administration about six years ago, I somewhat lost my identity as a clinician. Receiving this award is incredibly special not only due to the recognition, but that it has come from Susan and Randy Ward. They are a family who have been great friends to the CVM and the hospital. It is truly one of the most meaningful honors of my career
“What we do really is an amazing team effort. It takes a village, and this couldn’t be done without the leadership team in the college and the hospital. ”
~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine