John D. Bower, MD, died on May 1, 2023, at his home with his family and caregivers. A memorial to honor his life will be held on May 22, 2023, at the Norman Nelson Student Union at 10 am on the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s campus. He will be laid to rest in Bedford, Virginia.
Dr. Bower was born on November 14, 1931, in Westfield, Massachusetts to the late Kathryn W. (Kivisto) Bower and John Mitchell Bower. He grew up in Bedford, Virginia with his brothers, James M. Bower and William L. Bower.
After service in the U. S. Navy, John Bower married Mandaville Lucille Nance at her parents’ home near Moneta, Virginia, and brought great focus to his education and training. Dr. Bower earned a degree from Lynchburg College in only two and a half years. This was followed by graduation from the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) in 1961. It was at MCV that he chose to pursue a career in academic medicine. After an internship at the University of Virginia, he returned to MCV to complete a medical residency and a fellowship in nephrology.
During this training, Dr. Bower worked with Dr. David Hume, who recognized the need for an artificial kidney to support the transplant program. Hume sent Dr. Bower to train under the dialysis pioneer, Dr. Belding H. Scribner, at the University of Washington. Subsequently, Bower and Hume established an artificial kidney unit to support the new transplant program at MCV.
John Bower’s Mississippi career began in 1965 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Jackson, where he practiced medicine, engaged in hypertension research, and taught as a member of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) faculty. In 1966, Dr. Bower received one of the original United States Public Health Service grants to test the therapeutic efficiency of hemodialysis. He demonstrated conclusively that hemodialysis is both safe and life-sustaining. This work included dialysis of a patient on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Largely based on his efforts and advocacy, Medicare was modified to include patients with End Stage Renal Disease.
Due to the state-wide demand for artificial kidney services, Dr. Bower established Kidney Care, Inc. in 1973. This nonprofit organization grew to 28 outpatient dialysis units in three states supporting over 1,800 patients. In 1996, Dr. Bower became a founding member of Renal Care Group Inc., when Kidney Care, Inc. merged with several other dialysis facilities in the nation. The proceeds from this transaction established the Bower Foundation, whose continuing mission is to improve the health of all Mississippians.
During his 35-year association with UMMC, Dr. Bower taught at every level of health care education including nursing and the health-related professions. As the Chief of the Division of Nephrology, he trained over 50 nephrologists, many of whom continue to serve both the private and academic sectors. He contributed numerous publications to the biomedical literature, established holistic models of care for patients with kidney disease, and was the recipient of numerous national awards for his work. Fittingly, the UMMC John D. Bower School of Population Health bears his name as a lasting legacy.
Dr. Bower had many professional and personal interests throughout his life. He founded the End Stage Renal Disease Network 8 to support CMS priorities on behalf of kidney patients in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. He funded the endowment of the Perry Nussbaum Annual Awards and Lectures at Millsaps College, which is dedicated to men and women who have stood against racial bigotry and religious prejudice. In 2000, he established the monthly Retired MD Breakfast Meetings and associated endowment. In 2001, he established The Endowment for the Enrichment of the Sciences to support education in the sciences at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Dr. Bower supported veteran students at Lynchburg College through the establishment of the Veterans Scholarship Fund and Veterans Advocacy Center. His interest in promoting cultural arts in the Bedford, Virginia community led him to establish the Bower Center for Arts Charitable Trust.
Never one to pass on a party, he hosted many legendary events for his family, friends, colleagues, staff and students at UMMC, Kidney Care and The Bower Center for the Arts. His Pearl River sandbar parties, crawfish boils, fish fries and annual Kidney Care parties, will be remembered with smiles and laughter. He loved a challenge, as well as an adventure. After losing a leg in a motorcycle accident, he conquered one-legged waterskiing to continue his love of the water. Another passion was a love of storytelling. Anyone whose attention he captured was regaled with stories of his Navy days on his “tin can” ship. These stories will be treasured by his family. Within his clan, he instilled the importance of family with his annual vacations to unite children and grandchildren and strengthen their bonds. He impressed upon his family the importance of education and supported educational pursuits. He took his role as Patriarch seriously. His love and leadership will be missed.
In his retirement, Dr. Bower, along with his partner of 32 years, Edna Curry, spent much of their time traveling, entertaining, growing hay, tending to cattle and spending time with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his ex-wife Mandaville, aka Snookie, brothers, James M. Bower and William L. Bower and his son, Johnny Bower.
He is survived by his partner, Edna Curry of Brandon; children, Anne Bower Travis (Chris) of Flora, MS; Paul (Sarah) Bower of Charlottesville, VA; and daughter-in-law Bondee Bower of Vaughan, MS; grandchildren, Brant (Mollie), Hunter, Adam, Zach, John, Pierce and Lilly; and great grandchildren, Landon, Lyric, Emerson and Presly. He is also survived by his niece, Kathy Bower Thomas and her children, Justin and Clay; nephew, Robert Bower and his children, Austin and Lauren; nephew, Ed and his son, Mitchell; Edna’s daughter, Michelle and her children Haley and Amber (Jacob) and their daughter Maylee.
The family is most grateful for Dr. Michael Hall and Dr. Lyssa Weatherly at UMMC, the caregivers with Compassus, and his care team headed by LaShanna Johnson.
Donations may be made to the University of MS Medical Center John D. Bower School of Population Health; the Bower Center for the Performing Arts in Bedford, Virginia; the Salvation Army, or any other inspiring charitable entity.
Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, Bedford is assisting the family.