Otis Bowen, M.D., FAAFP

May 06, 2013 02:45 pm News Staff

Otis Bowen, M.D., FAAFP, of Bremen, Ind., died May 4 at age 95. A former Indiana governor and the first physician to serve as HHS secretary, Bowen had been a member of the Academy since 1949.

Bowen received his medical degree from Indiana University, Bloomington, in 1942. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, where he served in the Pacific for the duration of World War II, attaining the rank of captain. When the war ended, he returned to his hometown of Bremen, where he entered private practice. Then, in 1952, Bowen was elected coroner of Marshall County. Four years later, he won a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives.

After a 14-year stint in the Indiana legislature, including five as speaker of the House, Bowen set his sights on the state's highest elected office and, in 1973, became Indiana's 44th governor. The first to serve two terms in that office since the mid-19th century, he succeeded in pushing through legislation that stabilized physicians' medical liability premiums and limited medical malpractice awards in the state. After leaving office in 1981, Bowen took a faculty position at the Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, School of Medicine.

In 1985, President Reagan tapped Bowen for the post of HHS secretary. He came into the role just four years after AIDS officially was recognized for the first time and one year after HIV was identified as the causative pathogen. While in that office, Bowen championed the cause of securing more funding for AIDS care and research, as well as raising public awareness of the growing health scourge.

In 1990, the year after Bowen departed HHS, the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency (CARE) Act went into effect, providing support for people living with AIDS. Bowen received the Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award, named for the rural Indiana youth, from the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention (RCAP) in 2012. RCAP is a joint venture of Indiana University, the University of Kentucky and the University of Wyoming.

In 1992, the Bowen Research Center, the research arm of the Department of Family Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, was established and named in his honor. AAFP member Deborah Allen, M.D., then chair of the family medicine department, was one of the center's two founders. She stepped down as chair in 1998 after being named the Otis R. Bowen Professor of Medicine and director of the research center.

Bowen is survived by his wife, Carol, and four children. Services will be held May 10 at 11 a.m. EDT at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Bremen. Visitors may call at the church from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on May 8 and from 4-8 p.m. on May 9.

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