John Bowling with military therapy dogs while on rotation at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo courtesy John Bowling)
John Bowling with military therapy dogs while on rotation at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo courtesy John Bowling)

John Bowling’s childhood was a struggle.

At age nine, he was placed in a children’s home due to difficulties his mother experienced from cerebral palsy. He lived there until his junior year of high school when he relocated with foster parents, staying with them through high school graduation. Supported by his foster family and his biological mother and sister, he attended Lee University and graduated in 2013 with a degree in broadcast journalism.

“I’m living proof that there are lots of kids out there who have so much potential but due to circumstances out of their control, are unable to realize it,” he said.

Unsure of his next step, Bowling accepted a position through Teach for America as a high school biology and chemistry special education teacher in Hawaii. During his time there, he was inspired to pursue medicine. As much as he loved teaching, Bowling felt a call elsewhere after spending time with a physician mentor who encouraged him to consider medicine.

Going from teacher to doctor 

When he made the difficult decision to move back to the mainland and pursue medicine, Bowling searched for programs that would help him obtain his pre-requisite courses for medical school and found the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He enrolled in the Post Baccalaureate Pre-Med program which provides individuals with a bachelor’s degree looking for a career change to participate in a two-year preparation program to gain pre-med science coursework and offers assured admission to the UofL School of Medicine.

Bowling has been an active student leader during his time at the School of Medicine, serving as historian and using his technical skills in digital media, as well as his interest in social media to help document and promote the activities of his classmates. In addition, he was elected president of the Medical Student Council. During his time as president, Bowling led a complete renovation of the medical student lounge, spearheaded initiatives to support and uplift diversity groups, and contributed to several social events that brought all four classes together despite the COVID pandemic.

As a former teacher, Bowling brings a unique perspective to his medical practice that will undoubtedly benefit his patients. His advice for students pursuing medicine emphasizes the importance of following one’s passions.

“Be sure of yourself and your decision; it will require effort and commitment beyond what you could ever expect,” Bowling said. “Surround yourself with people who encourage you and build you up, but also those who will hold you accountable. Always take time for yourself and do the things that make you happy.”

Upon graduation, Bowling will begin his residency training in family medicine with the Naval Medical Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.

“It is an honor to be able to serve in the U.S. military, and I’m beyond excited to get started this summer,” he said. “I love traveling and adventure. My communications with the U.S. Navy confirmed my decision. I’ve made some amazing friends through boot camp and cannot wait to go active duty.”

By Edison Pleasants