RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Two Rio Grande Valley veterans are continuing to serve their community through medical practice at DHR Health.

South Texas native Dr. Kip Owen’s journey to serve the United States and its people began at the United States Naval Academy in 1971.

Owen became a fleet fighter pilot on the USS Enterprise with the honor of becoming one of 13 pilots who participated in the operational evaluation F/A18 Hornet and boarding.

In 1988, Owen graduated from the Texas A&M College of Medicine and also received his Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Naval Academy.

During his time at the academy, Owen started his practice at DHR Health in 2001. He has now been with the Orthopedic Institute at DHR Health for 21 years.

Owen says he has seen several changes and developments and that it is important to study and stay up to date.

“My career is long enough now that I’ve seen real advances in some of the surgical treatments that we provide compared to what we were doing back in 1990, 1991 compared to what we do today for the same problem,” Owen said.

Orthopedic sports surgeon, Dr. Eric Wilkinson is just down the hall at the DHR Health Orthopedic Institute.

Wilkinson joined the Navy in 2008.

The Texas native went to medical school and says he initially had no plans of joining the military.

Years later, he became a Navy officer and a flight surgeon, working closely with Marines, pilots, and aviation aircrew.

“The military gave me a great experience of leadership being a military officer,” Wilkinson said. “I learned a lot of leadership skills and had a lot of responsibility in those areas.”

Wilkinson served on several deployments including Hong Kong, the coast of Africa and the Middle East.

He has also seen several changes with sport-related surgeries, but the goal is to get patients to full recovery.

“I think that enjoying what you do is really important, and you can’t worry about how long it takes you to get there, and you just got to enjoy the ride,” Wilkinson said.

Both doctors shared an encouraging message to the community.

“Going into medicine it’s more of a marathon and less of a sprint and so there’s going to be times along the way where it gets hard but you just have to stick with it and so you just keep trying as hard as you can and don’t give up, you’ll get here,” Wilkinson said.

“It’s a lot of hard study don’t take your grades for granted those are the things that open doors for you as you go through your career and then your performance and your integrity follow so they always need to be at the front of your priorities as well so you can continue to achieve your dreams,” Owen said.