John Bowser '02, PhD, was not destined for a career in radio sales after earning his Bachelor of Arts in Marketing degree from St. Ambrose.
His full SAU experience was the foundation for a purpose-driven career in public health, instead.
"Many of the disparities and wrongs in the world tie into public health. It is not a field just focused on diet and exercise, but also violence prevention, mental health, maternal health, substance abuse and all areas where the ills of our society are reflected pretty strongly," Bowser said.
"For me, it is tough to see the disparities and not be passionate about doing something to help. I've developed a skill set to do that."
Bowser has focused much of his career in areas related to the health and wellness of students. He is now the program director of the Coverdell Stroke Program for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. He also is a valuable member of the SAU Master of Public Health program, serving as an adjunct instructor since fall 2019.
John Bowser '02, PhD
Bowser came to SAU unsure if he wanted a career in marketing but very sure he wanted to explore the liberal arts. He joined theatre, got involved in KALA-FM, and added a minor in English.
As a student, Bowser came to St. Ambrose unsure if he wanted a career in marketing but very sure he wanted to explore the liberal arts. He joined theatre, got involved in KALA-FM, and added a minor in English.
He moved to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, after graduation, "and because I had a marketing degree and I had done some radio, I thought selling advertising might work," he said. "It turns out I am not good at radio ad sales."
As a former gymnast, Bowser had a passion for fitness. He started coaching at the Stevens Point YMCA and eventually enrolled in the Human and Community Resources graduate program at UW-Stevens Point. "My liberal arts education at SAU had sparked that combination of an interest in health as a scientist, and a discipline, where through public health, I could be an advocate for social justice," he said.
He earned his master's degree in 2006, followed by a doctorate in population health sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013. Throughout his career, Bowser has served as an instructor and researcher in many public health roles and initiatives. This fall, the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) recognized him with the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his unwavering dedication to the field of public health and social justice.
In his role with the MPH team, Bowser has helped inform the university's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also serves on the CHHS Alumni Committee.
Teaching scratches Bowser's "academic itch" and is a path to share his passion for the field while contributing to it, too. In one course, he has MPH students write a health plan that addresses a specific topic for a specific population. "I ask them to take something they've gone through and/or have a passion for and come up with a plan to make that situation better for someone else," he said. It is living-learning, a way students can realize the purpose, and impact, of public health.
His continuing ties to St. Ambrose are no coincidence. "I had the opportunity to talk to a class of undergraduates about the MPH program and I told them the reason it belongs at SAU is because public health carries the flag of social justice forward. It is a great way for students, of any major, to take their passion and carry that mission forward," he said.
"The task is too big for a handful of people to take on. We need more people willing to make the world a better place through public health. When I have the opportunity to inspire other people to do the same thing I take it because there is so much work to be done."
–Dawn Neuses '94