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From collegiate football and early medical school admission to two tours in Iraq and a prestigious spine fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Steven J. Cyr, M.D. has pursued his childhood dream of being an athlete and a spine surgeon with many successes and blessings to share.
After playing football at Texas State University in San Marcos, Dr. Cyr graduated in 1996 from the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio and has spent most of his career in San Antonio, both in the military and private practice.
Dr. Cyr began medical school in 1992 on a United States Air Force scholarship. Upon graduating, he began his active duty service in the Air Force at Wilford Hall Medical Center. An initial internship followed by flight medicine training allowed him to serve as a flight surgeon for his first two years. At that time, the Air Force allowed him to begin its only orthopaedic residency program.
Following his residency at Wilford Hall, Dr. Cyr chose to narrow his scope of study to spine surgery. He was granted the single fellowship for spine surgery. “I found spine surgery to be the most interesting despite being the most challenging, the most complicated, and the most intimidating specialty,” recalled Dr. Cyr.
He was selected as the country’s only fellow to the Mayo Clinic fellowship in spine surgery. After completion of his fellowship, he returned to San Antonio where he served as the chief of Air Force Spine Surgery and the spine surgery consultant to the Surgeon General of the Air Force.
Over the six-year term in that role, he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and deployed twice to the Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq. He also served as assistant professor of surgery for the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences and trained orthopaedic residents and physician assistant fellows while at Wilford Hall. Educating others was a passion of his then and continues to this day. Dr. Cyr also is a preceptor for UT Health and provides clinical and surgical guidance to students in the physician assistant program.
After leaving the Air Force, Dr. Cyr founded and began full-time private practice at The Orthopaedic & Spine Institute. He is the president and chief medical officer of the institute located in the South Texas Medical Center.
“In my practice, we focus on conservative treatment before we consider surgery. I perform all types of spinal surgical procedures but my niche is revision surgery. I have always been willing to take on the most challenging cases regardless of the complexity as long as I believe that there is something that can be improved or corrected. My training at the Mayo Clinic and my tenure as the chief of spine surgery for the Air Force has given me the confidence to manage complex surgeries. That confidence has increased over the 14 years that I have been a spine surgeon.”
Growing up in a military family, Dr. Cyr spent his formative years on a base in the Philippines where he met his future wife, Le Ann, whom he married during his residency. They have four children, two girls and two boys. The life of a surgeon is not always easy on families, and he credits much of his success to their support and encouragement.
Leaving his family was one of the most difficult parts of serving two tours in Iraq, but the camaraderie with fellow surgeons and medical personnel working side by side to save the lives of combat soldiers was one of the most rewarding experiences of his career.
“We were a team,” said Dr. Cyr, who spent 14 years in the Air Force. “There was an amazing camaraderie which I don’t think you see often in medicine today. You get close to that working in a trauma center, but there is nothing like war that binds you as colleagues working closely together to save our soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen.”
Dr. Cyr’s passion for serving others is evident in his life. When he is not treating patients, he is actively involved in educating children and serving his community. He created an original comic series in an effort to encourage children to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM).
“One of the most rewarding things I do is reaching out to children to increase their interest in education. I created the OsteoCorps to make learning fun, visually appealing, and memorable,” he said.
The OsteoCorps is more than just an educational comic book; it has received high praise in the comic book world. Dr. Cyr and his creation were first introduced to the comic book community when they were invited to debut the comic at the world-famous San Diego Comic Con in 2015.
“So far, it is primarily an educational platform,” Dr. Cyr said. “I created it to reach out to children, to make medicine less intimidating and STEAM exciting. The characters are based on actual medical terminology, and their powers help teach readers about how different processes in the body function.”
In addition to his comic, Dr. Cyr and Le Ann also have gained recognition for their devotion to community service. Together, they created the Steven and Le Ann Cyr Family Charitable Fund.
As the 2016 distinguished alumnus of the Long School of Medicine, Dr. Cyr believes alumni can make a difference in changing the landscape of medicine by reconnecting with their alma maters and sharing their knowledge of the business side of medicine with students. He believes doctors should advocate for one another and serve their communities in more ways than medicine alone.
“Doctors are the ones who care the most about patients, and doctors are the ones who have the training to provide appropriate care to those patients. They have devoted their lives to caring for the injured and the ill. Very few people studied medicine for monetary reasons. Medicine is a calling to those who desire to make a difference in the world by helping people. I pray we continue to strive to regain control of our industry by sticking together. Doctors need to continue to devote time to our community as role models of service and humility while never forgetting to spend quality time with our own families while we’re out there serving others,” he said.