Come over into Macedonia, and help us. ~ Acts 16:9, KJV
I was drafted into military service in 1943; but, through a remarkable series of providential events, I was able to complete my pre-med requirements and enrolled in the College of Medical Evangelists on December 30, 1944. My roommate at Loma Linda was Louis Ludington, LLUSM class of 1949, a fellow Southern Junior College graduate and son of missionaries to Burma. He married Aileen Burka, LLUSM class of 1948. She became an anesthesiologist, while Louis became a general thoracic surgeon.
Following radiology training in Memphis, Tennessee, I began practice in east Tennessee, at Knoxville General Hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee. After a few months, I was invited in 1953 to join the staff at Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville, Tennessee. Also in 1953, I married a bona fide Kentucky “hillbilly” student nurse named Dusty. In 1954, we moved to an old farm. As I had been reared on a farm, I could not bear the thought of living in town.
Early in 1961, we received a call to join the medical staff of Bangkok Sanitarium and Hospital, which was founded by Ralph Waddel, LLUSM class of 1936. Overseas slots radiologist were and quite rare. Responding to the call was somewhat complicated; but one thought kept recurring forcefully in my mind: “If you refuse this call you will regret it the rest of your life.” As I recounted the cornucopia of blessings God had given me, I could not refuse Him.
In July 1961, after attending to the myriad details of the move, we flew out of Los Angeles to Tokyo, Japan, for a brief stopover. That intermission led to our first encounter with Irvin Kuhn, LLUSM class of 1955, and his wife, Doreen; and with George Tolhurst, LLUSM class of 1948, my fellow college student. Then it was on to Taipei, Taiwan, for a weekend with another classmate, Roger Heald, LLUSM class of 1949, and his wife. Finally we arrived in Bangkok – truly one of the great cities of the world by any measure! I suffered some degree of homesickness, but my wife Dusty loved it from day one.
The Bangkok Sanitarium and Hospital had a cosmopolitan and congenial medical staff. The radiology department equipment was acceptable and quite up to the standards of that day. We did both diagnosis and therapy. The exams were interesting and not greatly different from those in the United States.
I continued in my practice until 1997. As I approach my 84th birthday, I look back over my life with its joys and sorrows; and I marvel at the forbearance and love that God has for each one of us. To say the least, I have not one regret that we went to Bangkok. One of the lasting impressions that I brought home was an immense sense of awe as I recount Loma Linda University graduates who have given a lifetime of devoted service overseas and, like Paul, heard the call to come over and help.
–John Bowen, LLUSM class of 1949, is a radiologist in Louisville, Tennessee.