Sunday, June 05, 2005

Dr. Jack Bowman (In Memoriam)

Updated: 19 Mar. 2014 (Revised broken links)

Dr. Jack Bowman, AABB Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award recipient, 2001, a transfusion medicine pioneer, and one of the world's leading experts in treating and preventing hemolytic disease of the newborn, died on May 22:
I was privileged to work with Dr. Bowman at the Canadian Red Cross BTS in Winnipeg from 1967 to 1977, after I joined the organization as a child prodigy <;-)
  • Dr. B was group O Rh negative and often would donate his own blood for exchange or intrauterine transfusions (IUTs) when we were out of fresh O negs on the weekends
  • His twin brother Bill wore a bow tie, making it easy to differentiate "bow tie Bill" from Dr. B
  • Seeing him literally scurry about the donor room as he managed the plasmapheresis sessions of his "Rh ladies" who donated their anti-D for the production of Rh immune globulin. All of these women had had at least one baby die from HDN and at least one saved by an IUT managed by Dr. B. Their respect and affection for him was obvious to all.
  • Getting the chance to work on many of Dr. B's projects, including monitoring anti-D production in Rh negative women who volunteered for the clinical trial of prenatal Rh immune globulin at 28 weeks gestation; monitoring the antibody titres of the women who donated anti-D for Rh immune globulin and were boosted periodically with D+ red cells; working as a go-fer during plasmapheresis of the "Rh ladies"
  • Getting to donate anti-B (being group A) via plasmapheresis and experiencing the 5-minute transfusion of my cold autologous red cells
  • Once when I came to Dr. B about a patient with a difficult serologic problem, he looked at me and said, "You tell me, Pat. You're the expert." As someone who believes that we recall life mainly as a series of short encounters, this is one of my defining moments. It was the first time that someone in a position of professional authority had told me that my knowledge and experience had value. Simple, but all too rare.
  • Dr. B was the prototype of the busy professional who had far too much to do - university professor, medical director of a combined blood centre and transfusion service, director of another major laboratory (the "Rh Laboratory" pioneered by Bruce Chown and Marion Lewis), director of the Rh Institute, a pharmaceutical plant that developed intravenous Rh immune globulin (Win Rho), clinician who treated fetuses and newborns with HDN, husband and father.
Yet he was also the type of man who, years after I left the Red Cross, an organization with many technologists and nurses since it was not only the province's sole blood centre but also the transfusion service for all of Winnipeg, would never fail to recognize me at conferences and find time for a chat that showed he remembered.
Besides the many mothers and children affected by his work, Dr. B will be missed by everyone who had the good fortune to work with him. He was a "oner" - an all round good guy and true giant in transfusion medicine, a pioneer who played a key role in one of our greatest success stories, the prevention of Rh hemolytic disease of the newborn

I encourage you to add a comment below.


  1. Anonymous12:43 PM

    I just wanted to add a few words to what Pat has posted regarding the passing of Dr.Jack Bowman. I was privileged to have the opportunity to work at the Rh Laboratory in Winnipeg from 1981 to 1990 under the mentorship of Jack Bowman and Marion Lewis. Jack was passionate about his work and Lord knows he had lots of it, on the move every day between the Rh Lab, the Red Cross and the Rh Institute (pre-Cangene). Indeed his own O Rh Negative red cells were used to exchange transfuse countless Rh babies. Readers may be interested to note that one of the most difficult Rh cases from around the world that he successfully managed during my tour of duty, was not Anti-D but rather an Anti-c. Jack was a scholar and a gentleman, he will be sadly missed by his family, friends and the Transfusion Medicine community worldwide...
    Kieran Biggins, Lethbridge.

  2. Thanks, Kieran!

    About the anti-c,if I recall correctly, she was the woman who also underwent experimental plasmapheresis in an unsuccessful attempt to lower her titre.

  3. Anonymous4:03 PM

    Indeed, the lady in question was from Florida, USA. She stayed in Winnipeg from about November until March (brrrr!) and was plasmapheresed weekly(?). I think her titre dropped by one or two tubes from around 1:4,000 to 1:2,000 or so. Also, if I recall, she had one living child followed by seven or eight fetal deaths prior to the successful outcome under Jack's care. It was also around the time of some of the earliest "Intravascular" fetal transfusions under ultrasound guidance.....KB.

  4. I was a preemie patient of "Bow-Tie Bill" (born at Winipeg Women's Hospital, 1981), and although I never met Jack, I was aware as a child that he had an identical twin brother, and that they wore different ties. I have a lot of good memories of Dr Bill Bowman, and I will never forget the bow tie or the jelly beans.