Otis Doc Bowen had already worn many hats when he was tapped in 1985 to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services. At that time, important issues dominated the landscape of American politics, including the topic of AIDS.
President Reagan wasn’t saying much about the disease, so Secretary Bowen and Surgeon General C. Everett Koop skirted protocol to get information on AIDS out to the people.
Bowen recalls, “We called him ‘Chick Koop.’ He was sort of a legend and when we wanted to get information out to the public we would say, ‘give it to Chick’ because he was very popular with the news media.”
The move helped send money to AIDS research.
Bowen also was front and center for the catastrophic health case reform in 1988. Bowen remembers it was a big task for the Reagan administration. He said he spent nearly two-thirds of his time working on getting the bill passed in Congress.
The plan would expand Medicare to pay for virtually all the acute care costs for the elderly, but with the 1988 election looming, the bill was torpedoed and repealed by scaring senior citizens. Bowen says, “I think we would be much better off had they not repealed it. There was a little increased cost for the high income people, but it was, I think, a very good deal and it would have solved many of the problems that they're fighting right now.”
Doc Bowen has also taken a stand on another controversial topic, stem cell research. He says, “I think the use of stem cell research is great enough that many, many lives can be saved for certain diseases and eventually will probably be for most all diseases.”
Now out of both medicine and politics, Doc Bowen is enjoying retirement.
Doc Bowen turned 90 years old Tuesday, so if you see him at an IU basketball game or out and about in Bremen, be sure to wish him a happy birthday.
If you would like to learn more about the Bowen Center for Mental Health, you can check out their website by following the link below.