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From foster care to military family medicine residency

By Edison Pleasants
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – John Bowling’s childhood was a struggle.
At age nine, he was placed in a children’s home due to difficulties his mother experienced from cerebral palsy. He lived there until his junior year of high school when he relocated with foster parents, staying with them through high school graduation. Supported by his foster family and his biological mother and sister, he attended Lee University and graduated in 2013 with a degree in broadcast journalism.
“I’m living proof that there are lots of kids out there who have so much potential but due to circumstances out of their control, are unable to realize it,” he said.
Unsure of his next step, Bowling accepted a position through Teach for America as a high school biology and chemistry special education teacher in Hawaii. During his time there, he was inspired to pursue medicine. As much as he loved teaching, Bowling felt a call elsewhere after spending time with a physician mentor who encouraged him to consider medicine.
Going from teacher to doctor
When he made the difficult decision to move back to the mainland and pursue medicine, Bowling searched for programs that would help him obtain his pre-requisite courses for medical school and found the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He enrolled in the Post Baccalaureate Pre-Med program which provides individuals with a bachelor’s degree looking for a career change to participate in a two-year preparation program to gain pre-med science coursework and offers assured admission to the UofL School of Medicine.
Bowling has been an active student leader during his time at the School of Medicine, serving as historian and using his technical skills in digital media, as well as his interest in social media to help document and promote the activities of his classmates. In addition, he was elected president of the Medical Student Council. During his time as president, Bowling led a complete renovation of the medical student lounge, spearheaded initiatives to support and uplift diversity groups, and contributed to several social events that brought all four classes together despite the COVID pandemic.
As a former teacher, Bowling brings a unique perspective to his medical practice that will undoubtedly benefit his patients. His advice for students pursuing medicine emphasizes the importance of following one’s passions.
“Be sure of yourself and your decision; it will require effort and commitment beyond what you could ever expect,” Bowling said. “Surround yourself with people who encourage you and build you up, but also those who will hold you accountable. Always take time for yourself and do the things that make you happy.”
Upon graduation, Bowling will begin his residency training in family medicine with the Naval Medical Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.
“It is an honor to be able to serve in the U.S. military, and I’m beyond excited to get started this summer,” he said. “I love traveling and adventure. My communications with the Navy confirmed my decision. I’ve made some amazing friends through boot camp and cannot wait to go active duty.”
UofL Commencement is May 13
The UofL May Commencement Exercises are May 13 at the KFC Yum! Center.
Morning exercises begin at 10 a.m. honoring graduates from the College of Arts & Sciences, Brandeis School of Law, Graduate School (Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies only), Kent School of Social Work & Family Science, School of Dentistry, School of Medicine, School of Nursing and School of Public Health and Information Sciences.
Afternoon exercises begin at 3 p.m. honoring the graduates of the College of Business, the College of Education & Human Development, the J.B. Speed School of Engineering and the School of Music.
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About the University of Louisville
In 2023, the University of Louisville celebrates its quasquibicentennial, the 225th anniversary of the 1798 beginnings of higher education in Louisville. One of the nation’s first city-owned, public universities, UofL today is a vital ecosystem that creates thriving futures for students, our community and society. As one of only 79 universities in the United States to earn recognition by the Carnegie Foundation as both a Research 1 and a Community Engaged university, we impact lives in areas of student success and research and innovation, while our dynamic connection with our local and global communities provides unparalleled opportunities for students and citizens both. The university serves as an engine that powers Metro Louisville and the commonwealth and as a classroom for UofL’s more than 23,000 students, who benefit from partnerships with top employers and a wide range of community service opportunities. To learn more, visit

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