YKHC’s Inpatient Unit Director is a family medicine physician whose dedication to public health, missionary work and tuberculosis research has affected people all over the globe, including Papua New Guinea, India, Taiwan, Barrow, and Bethel.
Tall (6’5”), unpretentious and calm, Dr. Bowerman recently shared insights about living and loving his work at Bethel’s YKDRH hospital, as well as some personal history.
Bowerman was born in Sweet Home, Oregon. His father worked for the U.S. Forest Service and consequently their family—including Ron and five siblings—lived “off the grid” in Northern California. He credits his early childhood for giving him an appreciation of rural living. He mostly grew up in San Francisco, however, graduating from Lowell High, an alma-mater which he coincidentally shares with YKHC Pediatrician Dr. K. Jane McClure.
The attraction of faraway places affected Bowerman before he went to medical school—he spent three years in the Polynesian island of Samoa as a Peace Corps Volunteer between 1974-1977.
He met his wife Kathryn, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, after his return from Samoa in the late 70s—in the fellowship hall at their community church. By the early 80s he was in med school at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Married and with two children (a toddler and infant at the time), the family went to India for a month during his residency.
World travel, missionary work, and an affinity for remote regions of the world have shaped the Bowerman family history. They spent a number of years in Barrow during the early 90s and came to Bethel in 1999. In between there have been missions and research stints in Papua New Guinea and Taiwan. “The Christian faith and mission work is important in our family and we learned early in my career to ‘trust and pray God would look after us.’”
Now, of their four grown daughters—all graduates of Bethel High School—three are pursuing degrees in the health care field. Sarah is in her final year of residency as an OB/GYN graduate of University of Washington. Second oldest Kristen is also studying medicine at the University of Washington. Emily is in her third year of Physical Therapy school at the University of Pugent Sound; and youngest Katie is an English major at Seattle Pacific University.
What has drawn him to stay in Bethel and continue to serve the people of the YK Delta? “I enjoy working … with like-minded individuals who want to help the greater good. Bethel is an exciting, intensive place to be, and it really is what you make out of it,” he says.
“YKHC has done a tremendous job in being on the cutting edge of positive change for delivery of health care in a very unique model,” Bowerman says. “The first (Alaska) regional hospital to obtain a CT-scanner, daily use by our Health Aides of the EKG on the telemedicine cart, paving the way to graduate local talent as the country’s first Dental Health Aide Therapists…the list goes on and on. I feel (YKHC) is the most established medical provider in the bush and there is an essence of quality. It’s a real honor to work here.”
Some other things about Ron and Kathryn you might not have known
- Bowerman received a Congressional nomination from one of California’s congressmen to attend West Point in an attempt to follow the footsteps of his father, a WWII Army Air Corps pilot whom he considers his “all-time hero.” He decided not to attend.
- He is an avid Giants and 49ers fan. He said after the Giants swept the World Series, he took off his Giants hat around the clinic so as not to “rub it in.”
- His wife Kathryn received a scholarship out of high school to attend the University of California Berkeley and has a degree in landscape architecture.
- He has published numerous articles on arctic health issues, primarily tuberculosis research.