Public health doc retires

Dr. David Bowering is leaving his position as chief medical health officer after a quarter of a century in the northern health landscape

Medical health officer Dr. David Bowering with a Mitch Adams canoe paddle carving presented to him at a retirement potluck luncheon held at the health unit Dec. 12.

A DOCTOR who was once the inspiration for a march on his house by a group of supporters is retiring after a lengthy career in public health.

Dr. David Bowering, the Northern Health Authority’s chief medical health officer and who is also doubling as its northwest medical health officer based in Terrace, is leaving the end of this month.

The march took place in March 1990, two years after Bowering arrived to take the job of medical health officer for the Skeena Health Unit.

A difference of personalities and a difference of opinion between the provincial government and the health unit’s local board resulted in Bowering saying he would be leaving if not named the health unit’s administrative manager as well as its medical health officer.

That prospect proved unnerving to supporters of Bowering who, on an early March night in 1990, marched on Bowering’s Eby St. home carrying placards and imploring him to stay.

Bowering did stay, was named to the combined position as administrator and medical health officer and continued a public health career through several more reorganizations.

Except for a short stint in the North Okanagan, Bowering has spent his entire career in northern B.C., including time in the northeast and in Prince George.

He established a reputation as an independent thinker, moving public health care out of what many would consider its traditional role and into a more comprehensive one.

Bowering and others in Northern Health advocated for a shift in thinking and lifestyles of northern men in response to health outcomes which were worse than those for women who lived in the north.

He also encouraged and supported the writing of a report outlining railway accidents in northern B.C. It highlighted incidents in which dangerous goods were involved.

Bowering has no immediate retirement plans but does say he has an interest in exploring the impacts on health of continued economic expansion tied to oil and energy developments.

“There’s the idea that our quality of life is tied to economic growth, how much of our resources we can use. It’s unsustainable and at a gut level, I think we all know it,” he said.

“You’ve heard the expression ‘getting to yes’, but I think we’re getting to the wrong ‘yes’.”

Bowering said health issues tied to economic development include the health effects of industrial camp life on those who live in them as well as to their home communities they leave behind.

“We’ve been looking at this in a narrow context. Health is everyone’s business,” Bowering added.

Speaking at a Dec. 12 retirement luncheon held at the health unit here, Bowering said it was a joy to work in the north.

He said he knew Terrace would be home when he first landed after taking up his first posting with the Skeena Health Unit.

And he urged those at the luncheon to continue to do their best.

“As I’ve said before, get as far upstream as you can,” Bowering urged.

Interviews have already been conducted for the overall and northwest medical officer positions and hiring announcements are expected soon.

 

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