Dr. Mirna Bowden – Advancing Women’s Health at North Valley Hospital
By Allison Linville
Originally published in 406 Woman, December/January 2019 Issue
“My passion is to help women feel healthy and live a good life,” says Mirna Bowden, MD at Alpine Women’s Center. Dr. Bowden has been at Alpine Women’s Center in Whitefish for 16 years, where she is an obstetrician and gynecologist at the clinic, with privileges at North Valley Hospital delivering babies in The Birth Center and performing surgeries in the operating room.
“A normal day for me is all over the place – I love it,” she says with enthusiasm. “I’ll help with a birth at North Valley Hospital in the morning, come back to my office across the street and see patients, go back over for a DaVinci robotic surgery, come back to the office, later maybe assist with a patient in the emergency room, or there may be another surgery. Then, I go home and see my twins and try to eat with my family. It’s crazy, but I love my job.”
Dr. Bowden majored in history in undergraduate school at Connecticut College and she wrote her thesis on the role of midwifery in early modern Europe. “I was always passionate about midwifery and wanted to be a midwife, but I realized the medical training was important to me.” She went to medical school followed by residency for obstetrics and gynecology and “I ended up just loving surgery – it was all so interesting to me.”
In 2002, when Dr. Bowden came to North Valley Hospital after completing her residency at Baylor University’s Baylor College of Medicine, she joined Randall Beach, MD, in a practice of two providers at Alpine Women’s Center. Together, with area nurse-midwives and family practice physicians, they delivered 120 babies at The Birth Center at North Valley Hospital on average per year.
Now, there are three physicians at the clinic who, along with the nurse-midwives and family practice physicians in the area, deliver an average of 550 babies at The Birth Center every year – a significant increase since Dr. Bowden began practicing in the Flathead Valley.
Currently, Dr. Bowden delivers about 150 babies a year at The Birth Center at North Valley Hospital. “Our birth center is unique, since we are a Baby Friendly Hospital and we focus on low-risk births and the patient-family experience.”
She explains the complimentary relationship between the birth centers at North Valley Hospital and Kalispell Regional Medical Center. “We really work together, and I am grateful for the role that each facility plays in offering women options in the Flathead Valley. North Valley Hospital is well known for the patient-family experience and the options we provide, like water birth, but we don’t do high risk or pre-term births. Having a more complex facility that can take high risk patients so close to us is a great asset to our patient community.”
Dr. Bowden also explains there has been so much advancement in women’s health and surgeries throughout her career that “I don’t feel like I do the same thing I did 16 years ago.” One major shift that Dr. Bowden has seen in her career was in minimally invasive surgery, when North Valley Hospital purchased the DaVinici robot in 2009.
“We were just this little town with this advanced medical technology to provide excellent care – it was amazing,” she says. Now, the DaVinci robot is more common in all hospitals, and minimally invasive surgery is used in Kalispell Regional Healthcare hospital facilities.
In addition to overseeing births and surgeries, Dr. Bowden explains that her passion is infertility treatment, and also menopause and hormone balancing – bioidentical hormone replacement in addition to integrative medicine without hormones to help with menopause. “After my sister had breast cancer, she had early menopause from chemo,” she says. It was about six years ago, and as Dr. Bowden explains, “I saw the ways she could find treatment, and it really inspired me.”
One thing Dr. Bowden wishes that women knew is this: “We can find a treatment for almost anything. Tell your ob/gyn what’s going on, and we can help find treatment.” She mentions that women often don’t tell their doctor about a problem because it’s uncomfortable to discuss or embarrassing. But, Dr. Bowden affirms, “It’s so often treatable. I’ve treated issues that women lived with unnecessarily for years.” Also, she says the same for women’s sexual health. “Physical intimacy shouldn’t hurt, even after menopause. That’s something we can help with.”
Dr. Bowden gives more of her time to the hospital and the community than the long, demanding shifts she works as a physician. She’s also the vice chair of the North Valley Hospital Board of Directors, where she finds that her perspective as a physician representative is very beneficial. “I communicate both ways, both to the board on behalf of physicians—I can share perspectives I’ve heard from my colleagues—but also I can communicate administrative decisions to our physicians and staff. I’ve found this role to be very helpful at the provider level, and also for the hospital.”
For the last three years, Dr. Bowden has volunteered on the board (the entire board is made up of community leader volunteers), assisting with major decisions like the affiliation with Kalispell Regional Healthcare and growth of North Valley Hospital. She wants to be at the table, she explains, to be part of the decisions and the governing level of the organization. “I’m passionate about the hospital. I’m inspired by the mission, and our patients, and I really believe in the spirit of the place. I want to be part of what we are continually building here in Whitefish.”
“It’s a fabulous community here,” she adds. “I’ve delivered babies here for 16 years and I see these kids all around town – that’s what I love about a small town. You are so connected to the people you take care of.”