Vietnam vet joins hospital ranks

May 11, 1999

John FowlerBy ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / staff writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

There's a new soldier on staff at the Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown.

"I shaped my career in the military," said retired U.S. Navy doctor John C. Fowler, 54, of Annapolis.

A Vietnam veteran, Fowler retired in 1994 as head of Mental Health at the Naval Medical Clinic at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

"It means a tremendous amount to our patients and our families to have someone of his caliber and his expertise on staff," said Cynthia Pellegrino, Western Maryland Hospital Center director.


Among other military assignments, Fowler has served as an officer in the Medical Service Corps, taught at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and been head of health and physical residents at the Naval Annex near the Pentagon.

During his three-year tour at the U.S. Navy Drug Rehabilitation Center at Miramar, a naval air station in California, Fowler said he finished his doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Fowler will move the hospital closer to reaching one of its major goals, Pellegrino said. The specialist in behavioral medicine will help treat not just the body, but the mind, spirit and emotions of the patient, she said.

The doctor said he will develop a behavioral medicine program at the hospital center to tackle such common chronic-care patient complaints as depression and anxiety.

Behavioral medicine combines the psychological and the physical medical fields, Fowler said. Techniques such as biofeedback, desensitization and cognitive therapy are used to treat certain illnesses.

Operated by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the center is a chronic disease hospital and comprehensive care facility. The center treats patients whose conditions are generally irreversible.

Fowler is no stranger to difficult situations.

"In my last life," Fowler said, "I was a Vietnam vet."

As a U.S. Marine Corps medic, Fowler said he saw "a tremendous amount of combat" on the demilitarized zone in Vietnam.

Though Fowler said his psyche escaped the experience unharmed, his firsthand combat knowledge gave him an edge in treating veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

While still on active duty, Fowler said he opened a Vietnam Veterans Outreach Center in the Annapolis area.

In 1982, Fowler said, he developed a treatment protocol for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Fowler also has extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of phobias and anxiety and affective disorders.

He joined the medical team at Spectrum Behavioral Health in Annapolis after his 1994 retirement. In 1995, Fowler took a position as chief of psychological services at Deer's Head Hospital Center in Salisbury, Md., where he still serves as a consultant.

He works Wednesday through Friday at the Western Maryland Hospital Center on Pennsylvania Avenue in Hagerstown.

The Herald-Mail Articles