Doctor answers call to care
By DAVID REESE, Montana Health Journal
Mirna Bowden was always the first one on the scene with a bandage or a helping hand when she was growing up in Connecticut.
Now as one of Whitefish’s obstetricians, she gets to achieve her lifelong passion of helping others. Bowden is a partner in Alpine Women’s Clinic next to North Valley Hospital, working with Dr. Randy Beach and Dr. Kathleen Lewison.
Bowden delivers 10 to 12 babies a month, so she’s ready to answer the call any time of day or night.
Bowden moved to Whitefish in 2002 with her husband, Brett, and two children. Diving into the Whitefish practice was quite a change from where she had previously worked in Houston. There, only about five percent of the women she helped deliver babies could speak English, so the language barrier was a constant challenge.
After looking around the United States at small towns where the Bowdens could raise a family, she and her husband quickly fell in love with the small-town charm of Whitefish — and the excellent medical facilities available at North Valley Hospital. “I really loved the hospital,” she said. “With the birthing center and high-tech gynecological surgery equipment, it was a really good fit.”
Soon after moving to Whitefish the Bowden family grew by two, with the birth of their twins. She quickly became a part of the community by getting to know other families around town. “It’s hard to go anywhere and see anyone you don’t know,” she said, adding that a strong tie to the community is what helped her and her partners build Alpine Women’s Center.
Bowden said she is blessed to be a vital community member for families. “We have this rare ability as obstetricians to see women throughout the life process,” Bowden said. “It’s a very special relationship we have.”
Alpine Women’s Center draws from a large community, with patients from as far away as Somers and Libby.
North Valley Hospital’s birthing center occupies its own wing at the hospital, and is a warm, comfortable place for families during childbirth. Along with the Alpine Women’s Center’s inviting atmosphere, Bowden said she and her partners have a winning combination to help families, whether it’s through natural childbirth, obstetrics or infertility work.
“This is a community where you have to have a very welcoming practice,” she said. “The three of us have built a really busy practice.”
Alpine Women’s Center always tries to perform low-intervention childbirths, which results in a lower rate of Caesarean sections and a high rate of mother approval, Bowden said.
Often a doula will help in the childbirth. Doulas used by Alpine Women’s Center are trained massage therapists who help the mothers through the childbirth. “We have very beautiful births,” Bowden said.
Bowden had planned to become a midwife but decided that the education of a medical doctor would suit her and her patients better.
“I can’t be in a crisis situation and not be able to fix it,” she said.
Bowden is a high-energy woman who loves the various challenges of her work. One day might find her doing consultation in the emergency room, performing surgery, seeing patients in her practice or delivering a baby. “We are constantly doing something different,” she said.
Some of her most rewarding work is in the field of infertility.
Few things in her career are as rewarding for her, she said, as delivering a baby for a family that Bowden helped through infertility challenges, whether it’s in-vitro fertilization, adoption or surrogacy. She loves helping families who are going through this process. “It can be devastating to couples who can’t get pregnant when everyone around them is pregnant,” Bowden said. “But there are lots of ways to build a family. It doesn’t have to be the traditional way.”
Bowden definitely has her finger on the pulse of the community. She sees firsthand how current economic conditions affect families. She sometimes sees patients with depression and anxiety over their financial situations. This may have resulted from a father having to work far away in the oil fields of North Dakota, or a father being unemployed in today’s service-oriented culture and lack of manufacturing jobs. In fact, one of the most common medications prescribed to obstetric patients is antidepressants, according to Bowden.
Bowden’s own family has had to adjust to mom’s busy work schedule. Her husband and the children all know the “fire drill” that means she has to get to the hospital quickly. Bowden wouldn’t have it any other way, despite the long hours and phone calls in the middle of the night.
“I could do this in a huge community where I could sleep a lot more,” she said, “but I wouldn’t know anybody.”