Random Sample

  • Member since: 1992.

  • What she does: Bowman has been at the Pain Management Center at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center since 1996 and became director of medical psychology there in 1999.

  • A roundabout path: Bowman started out wanting to be a mathematician, got an undergraduate biology degree, then worked in jobs as varied as kindergarten teacher and amniocentesis technician. After a stint in a molecular biology grad program, she realized "I felt happiest and most fulfilled when I could help someone having psychological issues." She earned her doctorate from the California School of Professional Psychology in 1990—an 11-year effort. "During that time, I had two kids," she says. "And because I chose to do a neuropsychology dissertation, it took a long, long time. It took forever to find adequate samples of subjects."

  • Helping patients in pain: The only psychologist among physicians and other medical staff, Bowman now sees patients with chronic pain of all sorts, including headaches, back pain and pelvic pain. Using cognitive-behavioral therapy, guided visualization, relaxation techniques and other types of psychotherapy, she helps patients manage pain, the depression and anxiety that often accompany it and the tendency toward "catastrophic thinking."

  • Exploring Buddhism: When Buddhist techniques helped her during a bout with breast cancer in 2009, Bowman began incorporating them into her psychology practice. She teaches her patients meditation and encourages them to accept the central Buddhist tenet of suffering as a part of life. "That's a big turning point for people in pain—accepting that their pain is chronic and incurable and refocusing back on their lives," she says.

    Bowman now belongs to a local sangha, or Buddhist community. Last fall, she went on a five-day retreat in Marin County, Calif. At first, she found the no-talking rule difficult to follow—especially when coyotes started howling outside her room. "The first thing I wanted to do in the morning was say, 'Did you hear that?'" she says. "It was so frustrating!" By the time she left, she appreciated the quiet. "I usually have the radio on in the car," she says. "I had nothing on—just silence. And I really loved it."

  • Music lessons: Bowman's home is anything but quiet. During visits, her two adult sons can often be found jamming at her house. They also love to introduce her to music of all types. A recent favorite is the Grateful Dead. "Of course, the Dead are more from my time than theirs, but I didn't know who they were back then," she laughs. "Now my sons are doing their best to Deadhead me!"

—R.A. Clay


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