Science professor enjoying second career with Wayland

PLAINVIEW – Knowing how the body works and moves and can be treated is not new territory to Dr. Randy Craig. He’s just more used to the bodies of canines, felines and horses than of humans.

But Craig got a new leash [sic] on life when he signed on as a part-time member of the biology faculty at Wayland Baptist University last fall. His appointment as associate professor is full-time this semester, as he helps fill in the gaps left by the retirement of longtime professors Dr. Gerald Thompson and Dr. J. Hoyt Bowers.

In his previous career, Craig was a veterinarian, and he practiced for more than 20 years, primarily in Mississippi and Alabama. Born in Plainview and raised in Tahoka, Craig was running a successful vet clinic in the Mississippi area, where he set up shop after earning his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at Mississippi State University.

A meeting with his ailing father a few years back had him thinking about home more and considering the move back to Texas.

“My dad was sick, and I came out here to visit him. He asked me to take care of my mom and I knew I couldn’t do that from so far away,” he said, noting that his mother still lives in Tahoka. “I went back thinking that I should probably think about moving back and some point. In a few months, another vet came in out of the blue asking me if I would sell my clinic, and in two months, I had sold it and moved here six months later.”

Craig moved to the Plainview area in 2003, bought an old barn outside Petersburg and refurbished it into a home. Meanwhile, he had gotten to know some area veterinarians and was called to do surgeries on pets from time to time. He’d also filled in at some animal clinics in Plainview and Slaton as needed. By 2007, he was working solely as a contract veterinary surgeon, traveling to Lubbock, Slaton and Plainview as needed to do procedures.

That spring, School of Mathematics and Sciences Dean Dr. Vaughn Ross contacted Craig about the possibility of doing some teaching at Wayland, anticipating the coming vacancies due to retirements.

“Teaching was not even on my mind at that time,” Craig said. “I had the opportunity to go back to the vet school as a clinical teacher at one time, but I just never pursued it.”

Now, however, Craig was intrigued at the possibility. A strong Christian and active member of College Heights Baptist Church, where he’d worshipped alongside many of the WBU science professors, he knew the school’s reputation and the atmosphere.

“Dr. Ross told me they wanted to take more of a clinical approach to the pre-med and pre-nursing programs, and needed folks who had that clinical experience,” Craig said, adding that he was interested in the challenge. “I’d gotten a good dose of God’s guidance and I felt that’s what was happening here. I felt like if that’s the door God was opening, I was going to follow Him.”

He came on part-time in the fall of 2007, spending the summer brushing up on his biology textbooks from his undergraduate work at Texas Tech, noting that while the basic knowledge was still there, he had to revert back to the theory where he had been working in practice for the past 20-plus years.

Craig said the veterinary experience is easy to translate into the human healthcare world because of several similarities.

“The veterinary field has given me insights much like a pediatrician,” he said. “When kids come in sick, you don’t just deal with them but with moms and dads who help you know what’s wrong with them. The same is true of pets; since they can’t talk, you have to rely on the moms and dads to tell you. There is a personal relationship involved with all clients.”

That clinical experience with patients and with parents helps Craig relate to his students the importance of the personal touch in healthcare fields, one he sees waning in many larger markets. He’s also enjoyed being able to relate his experience into the practical aspect of healthcare.

“Students these days like to know why we’re doing something and how it relates to them, instead of just doing it,” he said.

Now a full-time faculty member, Craig said the transition from practicing veterinarian to teaching at the college level has been easy, in large part because of the atmosphere at Wayland and the people – both students and coworkers. Working with students instead of pets hasn’t been much of a challenge either.

“They’re all the same,” he laughs. “Some just bite harder.”

Craig’s primary teaching field is biology, and he teaches the anatomy and physiology classes, genetics, general biology and a section of life science like his fellow faculty members. He anticipates picking up other courses over the coming years that fit his clinical background. He also serves as adviser to pre-nursing and pre-allied health students and has the privilege this year of guiding five pre-veterinary students at Wayland. Altogether, around 70 students at Wayland are studying for a career in some healthcare field.

Craig is married to Patti, an Alabama native he knew for years while working in that area. Longtime friends, she moved to Texas a few years after Craig and the two married in September 2006. She is a certified junior accountant in Lubbock. The couple enjoys dabbling in alternative energy sources, and Craig creates custom spurs. They donate a pair each year to the American Wind Power Center in Lubbock for their fundraising auction.