Charles L. Bowden, MD died on March 1 at the age of 83 at his home in San Antonio, Texas after a prolonged illness. He made major contributions to our knowledge about pharmacological treatments for bipolar disorder. His entire career was spent as a faculty member of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, at which he ultimately became the chair. He retired in 2017.
He was raised in Brady, a small town in the heart of Texas, where he played on a high school football team that won the state championship. He went on to the University of Texas in Austin, earning a bachelor’s degree, and then to Baylor for his medical degree. He trained in psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, where he became a candidate in Columbia Psychoanalytic Institute. After two years in the US Public Health Service in Lexington, he returned to Texas to join the faculty in 1970.
He published nearly 500 peer-reviewed articles on a variety of topics. His primary professional focus was on mood disorders, bipolar disorder, in particular. Prior to his research the only FDA-approved treatment for bipolar disorder was lithium, and there had been no placebo-controlled studies of lithium published for 20 years. Although there had been some research on several anticonvulsants for mania, his study was the first multicenter placebo-controlled trial of any treatment for mania. This three-week inpatient comparison of divalproex, lithium, and placebo in the acute treatment of mania demonstrated efficacy for both active treatments, and was published in 1994. This study was followed by a 12-month maintenance trial of patients remitted from an episode of mania who were then treated with either divalproex or lithium, and was published in 2000.
He was the recipient of many awards for his work over the years. Among the most notable were the Klerman Senior Investigator Award from the Depressive and Bipolar Support Alliance, the Falcone Award for Mood Disorders from the Brain and Behavior Support, the Andrew Leon Distinguished Career Award from the International Society for CNS Trials, and the Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Society for Psychiatric Physicians. He was on the editorial boards of a number of professional journals, including Depression, the Journal of Bipolar Disorders, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia, and Bipolar Disorders.
In addition to his academic pursuits, he was a lifelong skier. He built his own water skis while in high school and became an accomplished slalom skier. However, his passion was snow skiing, in which he excelled. There were few slopes that he couldn’t gracefully master, even the most difficult moguled, narrow double-black shutes. He even served as a professional ski instructor well into his 70’s. He and his wife, Virginia, skied at resorts all over the world, but his favorite by far was Telluride, Colorado, where they had a condo for many years. I personally skied with him on many of those slopes where he taught me many tricks—including how to get back up on my feet when I would fall on perfectly flat surfaces!
As a true son of Texas, he invested in oil wells all his adult life. His investments were very successful and enabled his and Virginia’s considerable art collection—much of it of Texas scenes. I remember many occasions during which he and Virginia would visit me in New York when they were on their way to Sotheby’s Auction House.
He was accepted into the ACNP as a member in 1987 and attended nearly every meeting since. He was a Fellow Emeritus when he died. He served on the Finance Committee and the Constitution and Rules Committee. He was also active in the American Psychiatric Association, at which he served as a member of the Board of Trustees.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Virginia, his two daughters (Sharon in Great Falls, VA, and Ellen in Nashville, TN), both of whom are very successful attorneys, 6 grandchildren, and a sister and brother.
About this article
Cite this article
Hirschfeld, R.M.A. In Memoriam—Charles L. Bowden, MD. Neuropsychopharmacol. 47, 1582 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-022-01329-x