Clotilde Dent Bowen, MD, honored with Office of Diversity and Inclusion Hall of Fame Award

Photo of young Dr. Clotilde Dent BowenClotilde Dent Bowen, MD, is the recipient of the inaugural 2021 The Ohio State University Office of Diversity and Inclusion Hall of Fame Award.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Ohio State Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) recently held its inaugural Hall of Fame Award ceremony, which celebrates the impressive leadership of Ohio State community members and recognizes their efforts to uphold the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition to showcasing transformative achievements in breaking socioeconomic community barriers, the ODI Hall of Fame Award winner demonstrates altruism and innovation.

Dr. Bowen was a pioneer in many respects. She became the first African American woman to graduate from The Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1947. She was the first African American female physician in the U.S. Army in 1956, serving as a pulmonary specialist. Dr. Bowen later became the first female commander of a military hospital, as well as the first African American woman to be appointed chief of psychiatry in two Veterans Administration hospitals and two Army medical centers.

Her extensive work in the military exemplified her courage in the field of medicine. After taking a hiatus from the military to pursue a residency in Albany, New York, Dr. Bowen returned to the U.S. Army as a psychiatrist. One of her most notable contributions during this period was her role as a neuropsychiatric physician for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, in which she set up drug treatment centers and worked to alleviate racial conflict. Her work earned her a Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit. Dr. Bowen’s contributions to the military did not end with her service, as she became a passionate advocate for issues related to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Following her retirement from service in 1996, Dr. Bowen worked with The Joint Commission to ensure effective, high-quality health care in the United States. In addition to serving as chief of psychiatry for the Veterans’ Administrations, Dr. Bowen pursued medical assignments across the country to mitigate the current physician shortage. After formally retiring from medicine, Dr. Bowen continued to contribute to her community via the American Psychiatric Association, in which she helped develop and implement an emergency psychiatry program. Dr. Bowen’s project brought her many honorable titles, including fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, fellow of the Central Neuropsychiatric Association and fellow of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.

Dr. Bowen continued to serve as a powerhouse in medicine for years, publicly speaking across the country as a human rights advocate. Her determination to address socioeconomic issues in medicine symbolizes the compassion and dedication Dr. Bowen had for her country. Her legacy in medical humanism is encapsulated through the Bowen Award, an honor granted to a female student at the Ohio State College of Medicine who presents similar characteristics to Dr. Bowen.

“Dr. Bowen established a legacy of excellence in leadership, service and philanthropy for all Buckeyes to aspire to,” says Leon McDougle, MD, professor of Family Medicine at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and a former colleague of Dr. Bowen. “Her portrait and biography are displayed at the entrance of Meiling Hall, welcoming all who visit the College of Medicine, and establishing a standard of excellence for Ohio State students, residents, fellows, faculty and staff.”

Dr. Bowen’s posthumous induction into the ODI Hall of Fame is a public affirmation of her values of altruism and bravery in the face of socioeconomic issues.