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District Grad Aids in Relief Efforts to Hurricane Victims

Naval Surgeon Aboard U.S. Hospital Ship


Editor’s note: SNN reporter Morgan Jarema had the opportunity to interview Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Stepanovich, M.D., a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in the U.S. Navy and a 2000 graduate of Forest Hills Central High School. His mother, Susan Stepanovich, is head attendance secretary at Forest Hills Eastern High School.

Where are you right now? Aboard USNS Comfort, a Naval Hospital Ship currently serving in Puerto Rico performing orthopedic evaluations, fracture reductions and surgeries as part of relief efforts from Hurricanes Irma and Maria earlier this fall.

Matthew and Gretchen Stepanovich with, from left, baby Levi and sons Ryder and Cole, at Sleeping Bear Dunes in 2016

What are your days like on the ship? The ship is a fully functional hospital. I typically start my day caring for patients on the wards post-operatively, and then begin operating on patients I evaluated and admitted the previous day or on urgent and emergent cases that present to the emergency department. Following my surgical cases, I am then on call for any orthopedic injuries presenting through the ship’s emergency department for the remainder of the day / night.

What is the toughest part of the job? The toughest part of my job is being away from my wonderful family, my wife, and three young boys.

What is the greatest part of the job? The satisfaction of applying my years of training into directly helping those in need.

What is your job like when you are not where you are right now? At Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, in Virginia, I am one of two full-time pediatric orthopedic surgeons. I evaluate, manage and operate on the entire breadth of pediatric orthopedic conditions ranging from sports medicine injuries to clubfoot to cerebral palsy to scoliosis. I also serve as the assistant residency director.

Matthew Stepanovich’s Central HIgh senior picture

How did Forest Hills affect your career choice, and/or how did the district prepare you for it? My time in Forest Hills Public Schools, through academics and sports, built the foundation that allowed me to successfully pursue my doctorate of medicine and ultimately served me well as a Naval Officer and during my strenuous orthopedic residency and pediatric orthopedic fellowship.

If I had to give specific credit to one thing I would definitely choose wrestling under coaches Dave Mills and Rick Kacher. I learned very early a lesson that continues to serve me throughout my life: Talent and knowledge will serve you well, but ultimately the willingness to work harder and longer will allow you to succeed more often.

Advice for future FHPS grads? My advice for current and future students is to be kind to each other, and if you decide to do anything in sports or academics, always try your best. Things that seem very important when you are a teenager quickly fade, and simple things like kindness, respect and a strong work ethic will serve you well for a lifetime.

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USNS Comfort Welcomes Second Baby While in Puerto Rico

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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