Meet our Docs: Dr. Charles Bowkley named Wyoming Medical Center’s Physician of the Year
By Kristy Bleizeffer Jul 12, 2017
The Wyoming Medical Center Foundation has named Charles Bowkley III, M.D., 2017’s Physician of the Year.
Dr. Bowkley is an interventional radiologist at Wyoming Medical Center and at Casper Medical Imaging and Outpatient Radiology. He is the only neurointerventional radiologist in Wyoming.
He’s also a member of Wyoming Medical Center’s primary stroke team which includes nearly every department in the hospital: EMS, ER nurses and physicians, radiology, laboratory, pharmacy, ICU, neurology, therapies, case managers and more.
The standard of stroke care at Wyoming Medical Center, and at hospitals across the country, has experienced a cosmic shift over the last couple of years. In some cases, and with a new-generation of clot retrieval devices, interventional radiologists can pull stroke-causing blood clots from the blocked vessel, restoring blood flow to oxygen-starved parts of the brain. This has been shown to drastically improve outcomes for certain stroke patients. Having interventional radiologists on site 24 hours a day allows WMC to use the most advanced stroke treatments.
“The evolution of stroke therapy is probably one of the most gratifying aspects of my work,” he said. “Having a patient come in who is paralyzed on one side of the body, removing their blood clot and having them walk out of the procedure room is just beyond me. That is truly science fiction.”
Dr. Bowkley will be honored at the foundation’s annual Gift of Health Gala Sept. 29 at The Hangar in Bar Nunn. In this interview, he explains the role of the interventional radiologist in advanced medical care.
Where did you grow up and how did you become interested in medicine?
I grew up in a relatively rural suburb of northern New Jersey, if you can call any part of New Jersey rural. My initial interaction with the healthcare community was my pediatrician. He was humorous and lighthearted, but he was a true East Coaster. He didn’t beat around the bush and got straight to the point. Even as a child, I appreciated the honesty and clarity in his bedside manner.
The altruistic aspects of medicine have always aligned well with my core values; specifically, helping someone during their time of need.
I think a lot of people think radiologists are the people who administer the X-rays, the CT scans, etc., and then their doctors make the diagnosis. That’s not the case, is it?
You are correct. Many people believe that radiologists “take the pictures,” however, that is not the case. Certified radiologic technologists capture the images, and it is the radiologists who interpret them and apply their medical expertise to diagnose what ails the patient.
I think that it is easy to determine where the misunderstanding comes from; in a traditional “doctor” visit, the patient directly interacts with his or her physician. However, in many cases, when a patient undergoes a medical imaging examination they typically interact with a technologist. The radiologist is behind the scenes, analyzing the images to provide a diagnosis.
As an interventional radiologist, my role is less hidden from patient care in that I see and examine patients every day in addition to reading imaging studies.
Explain the difference between a diagnostic and interventional radiologist.
The diagnostic radiologist uses CT scans, mammography, plain film radiography, MRI and ultrasound to diagnose a condition based on a given set of imaging findings. An interventional radiologist maintains the skill set necessary to perform diagnostic radiology in addition to undergoing subspecialized training to provide treatment for the conditions identified.
There are a number of different items in the interventional radiology toolbox including needles, catheters (think of a very small and long drinking straw), guide wires and applicators of all sorts, depending on what specific disease process is targeted. My favorite part of being an interventional radiologist is that not only do I have the training to make the correct imaging diagnosis, I also have the expertise to fix the problem! It is really the best of both worlds.
Why did you specialize in interventional radiology?
My original plan was to become an obstetrician. The miracle of childbirth, the complexity of caring for two patients simultaneously and the overall positive outcome of the majority of pregnancies were all appealing. I also knew that I enjoyed using my hands and performing procedures for patients.
However, once I was introduced to the full spectrum of medical imaging, I was pretty much hooked on radiology. Seeing inside the body without performing surgery is truly a miracle of modern medical imaging. Further, when I learned that there were doctors who saw their own patients in clinic and were also radiologists, doctors called interventional radiologists, I never looked back. The melding of diagnostic capability and the opportunity to perform a therapeutic intervention created a paradigm that satisfied all of my requirements as a fulfilling profession.
You are the only neurointerventional radiologist in Wyoming. What does that mean, and what kind of training is required?
Whatever your specialty, becoming a doctor is a long educational road. Four years of college are followed by four years of medical school. After medical school graduation, you spend a year within your chosen specialty called the internship year. After internship, the traditional training for a diagnostic radiology resident is a four-year term studying the elements of imaging and applying your medical knowledge to patient care through all of the imaging modalities. After graduating as a board-certified radiologist, you attend at least one, and potentially three, years of fellowship training in neurointerventional management of disease.
In my case, I spent my first fellowship year performing procedures over the entire interventional spectrum, including vascular, body and neurointerventional procedures. In order to sub-specialize in neurointerventional radiology, I decided to complete another year of dedicated training in head, neck and spine intervention at Johns Hopkins. After graduating from high school, my level of expertise required 15 years of uninterrupted training to perform the complexity of procedures I offer to our patients.
Tell me why you came to Casper, and were you surprised at the level of specialized care available here?
Deciding to move to Wyoming was one of the easiest and best decisions of my life. Having a dual fellowship subspecialty background, there were a number of different options available to me when I graduated. I knew that I needed to take into consideration how I envisioned my lifestyle outside of work and balance that against the rigor of a rural-based interventional practice. I was drawn to the idea of a more rural environment, not only for the access to outdoor activities but also providing safe, high intensity, and high quality care to the people of Wyoming locally to prevent unnecessary travel from our state.
Initially, I was surprised to learn that the level of medical sub specialization in Casper ran so deep. However, it is only due to the depth of medical expertise here in Casper at Wyoming Medical Center that this hospital can handle the complexity of patient needs locally rather than referring patients across a border to a larger institution.
What medical breakthroughs in radiology have you most excited?
The current patient/physician interaction paradigm revolves around the detection, analysis and treatment of macroscopic disease markers; for example large tumors, blood clots and easily visualized disease that can be detected with traditional medical imaging such as CT, ultrasound and MRI. Over the next decade, we will see a shift away from macroscopic processes, with more focus on determining how genetic predispositions and molecular markers specific to a given condition ultimately influence disease. The current explosion of research within and application of artificial intelligence in medical diagnosis and treatment will further revolutionize the entire landscape of medicine. Synthesizing the two fields of molecular medicine and big data will yield new algorithms previously impossible to imagine. Interventional radiologists with a background in molecular imaging will have the ability to capitalize on the delivery of that care paradigm.
Casper Medical Imaging is the only local radiology team in Casper. What does that mean to patients?
It means the delivery of safe and high-quality care driven by excellence.
There are four interventional radiologists in our practice, which equates to emergency interventional coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including treatment for stroke. Wyoming Medical Center is the only hospital in Wyoming that offers this depth of dedicated service. We offer the same level of care traditionally only available at a large academic medical center, locally, and we are proud of that.
Dr. Bowkley is the only neurointerventional radiologist in Wyoming. He is board certified in diagnostic and vascular / interventional radiology and serves as Chief of Medical Staff at Wyoming Medical Center. He joined the staff at Casper Medical Imaging and Outpatient Radiology in 2010. Call (307) 265-1620 for an appointment or referral.