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Medical Staff Profile: Brock Bowman, M.D.

Q & A with Dr. Brock Bowman, Associate Medical Director of Shepherd Center

Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor?

A: There are two reasons. As a high school football player, I tore a ligament in my knee and had to undergo almost a year of rehabilitation before I could return to playing high school sports. Also, I was very fortunate to play for Coach Charlie Wedemeyer, a former All-American quarterback for Michigan State University, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease. He is unable to talk or move his arms or legs, yet he was the head football coach. From a golf cart, he called the plays through his wife,who read his lips and then hand-signaled them to me on the field. So I became interested in becoming a doctor becauseof this early introduction in my life to rehabilitating myself and seeing someone close to me excel and contribute despite asevere disability.

Q: Explain your specialty in physiatry.

A: Physiatrists specialize in treating the medical needs of peoplewith physical and/or cognitive disabilities. The discipline was founded in the early 1900s, became a separate medical field in 1947 and then became well established in the 1950s withthe polio pandemic. Physiatry now encompasses treatment for people with spinal cord and/or brain injuries, as well as people with limb amputations, strokes, neuromuscular diseases, and many other diseases and injuries.

Q: How does your experience and Shepherd Center’sapproach benefit this patient population?

A: We often see people with very substantial disabilities go on to do amazing, productive things in their lives. We know what is possible, so we take this can-do approach with every patient. We walk a thin line between helping patients deal with reality and finding hope. We’re truthful. We will teach you to do the things you need to learn to do for yourself. But we also want patients to maintain hope for the future. There’s research underway, there’s divine intervention and there’s luck. I tell patients they want to take care of themselves so they will be around to benefit from future opportunities that may come along.

Q: What should patients expect once they are admitted toShepherd Center?

A: Rehabilitation at Shepherd Center is hard work. We’re not aspa. Our job is to push people to do things they think they cannot do. It’s sort of like being a coach. We show patients the way to do things and then push them to do it. Our role is to make patients as independent as possible. The goal is to discharge them to their homes.

Q: Describe the interaction you have with patients and theirfamilies once they are admitted to Shepherd.

A: Patients see their attending physician at least once a day,and they see that same doctor during their entire stay. The consistency we provide in care is very important. When patients first arrive, they typically see their attending physician for 30 to 40 minutes a day. Plus, the physician reviews the patient’slab test results and discusses the patient in treatment teamconferences. Also, physicians sometimes observe their patients in therapy to see the progress they’re making. Toward the end of a patient’s stay, the physician typically spends 15 to 20 minutes a day with them if all is going well.

Q: What have you learned about yourself and others in theprocess of treating people with catastrophic injuries?

A: I’m still amazed at times by the resiliency of certain people with certain kinds of injuries. I sometimes think nobody could cope with this certain injury and these certain circumstances, but then they do amazing things…. I see people at their absolute worst. Life has thrown them the worst imaginable circumstances,and we (the staff) can be a reminder of that. But most patients usually turn a corner, and then we’re associated with their triumph on some level.

Interesting Facts: Brock Bowman, M.D.

• Pitched in the 1989 College World Series, Division 3, for Johns Hopkins University

• First job was as construction laborer when he was in high school

• Father of 4-year-old twins


Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.