The first name on the list of ten physicians who formed the Waco Medical Association was its oldest (at 47) and most adventurous physician who called the meeting to order and stated its purpose. A hefty man with sandy hair and a long beard and high-top boots, he was larger than life and a colorful story-teller.
Dr. Owens was born in Kentucky in 1819. He graduated from Kemper College in St. Louis in 1840, then graduated from medical school at the University of Missouri in 1844. Not done, he attended another medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. He then enlisted in the US Army as an assistant surgeon in the Mexican War, after which he practiced a few years in New Orleans. When Gold Rush fever hit the country, he traveled 128 days by covered wagon to practice medicine in San Francisco in 1949. When the rush subsided, he left for Australia to practice medicine and mining in Melbourne, finding success in both. He next joined the British fleet and served as a surgeon in the Crimean War (where Florence Nightingale became famous). At war’s end in 1856, he returned to Missouri to marry Lucy Jane Thurman, and they moved to Waco, a bustling town of 500 in 1858, where they lived until his retirement in 1890.
In 1861, he enlisted in the Confederate Army, serving as a surgeon until war’s end in 1865, when he returned to Waco to practice medicine once more. He was successful in medicine, but also bought large pieces of land. In 1871, Waco had a terrible fire that burned “Rat Row,” a collection of wooden buildings on the north side of Main Street from First to the Square. Dr. Owens lost his clinic and some of his real estate investments in that fire, but he had other real estate holdings, as well as a drug and grocery store, and later a farm implement business with his son.
Sharon Stern, M.D.
Sharon grew up in Texas (Corsicana, Ft. Worth, Marshall and Dallas), and graduated from UT Austin 1982, attended medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, then residency in Family Medicine at Memorial Southwest (now Memorial-Hermann) in Houston. She met husband Charlie in her first year of medical school in 1983, and they married while in residency in Houston in 1987.
When Charlie took a job with Scott and White in Waco in 1992, Sharon initially worked a few years at the Waco Family Health Center’s OutPatient Clinic, then began to work part-time at the Baylor University Health Center. In 2008, she expanded her duties to full-time and became the medical director, where she continues today. The Center has six physicians (including three graduates of the Waco residency) and two nurse practitioners meeting the diverse medical needs of more than 16,000 Baylor undergraduate and graduate students.
Sharon and Charlie have three daughters. She has been teaching pre-school choir at her church for 18 years, and sings with the Central Texas Choral Society.
What do you hope to see happen in the future in Waco?
The medical community in Waco is growing and changing. I feel very encouraged by many of the young doctors coming on the scene as some older doctors retire. I hope for the future that young doctors continue to get involved in the medical community, giving back in many ways.
If there is one message you’d give to today’s physician, what would it be?
It is okay not to do everything all at once. I worked part-time while our children were small so that I could be with them, and I have never regretted it. I feel like sometimes we expect ourselves to be “supermen and -women” and that is unrealistic. You have to find the balance that works best for you and your family.