Since Lola magazine was incepted, I have celebrated the inspiration, style, and positivity it brings to our community and to the state of Louisiana. I am honored to have an opportunity to join in their mission.
My name is Jacquelyn Bowers Gentry, M.D. I am known by many titles, most proudly as the mother to our two year old, Evan Jackson Gentry, as a wife to my husband, Dewayne Eric Gentry, and as a daughter to my parents, Carol Holt Edwards and the late Robert Claude Bowers, Jr. I have taken a winding path, as many of us have experienced, that brought me to these days of opportunity to take care of patients as an Emergency Medicine Physician in a busy urban ER.
I have learned the driving force is not so much the destination, but rather the path you choose to take as you arrive. At every moment, the world is whispering opportunities. Listen closely.
by M.H. Clark.
My path began as a little girl looking up to an amazing man, Jack Holt, my grandfather. He was a World War II Veteran and flew as a bomber pilot. He flew the last mission over Germany then returned home to marry his sweetheart, Mary Rose. He stayed in the “Air Corp,” as they referred to it at that time, for a couple of years and saved money to go forward to Tulane Law School, which he graduated from with fervor. He returned to Central Louisiana where he began his law practice with his brother. At the age of thirty, he ran for Judge of the City of Pineville and won, defeating the hometown man. He was the youngest judge ever elected in the State of LA. He was active in his church as a deacon and Sunday school teacher, and he was president of the many civic organizations. He and six friends established Alpine City, which basically developed the entire area: subdivisions, Dresser Industries, and multiple churches and missions. He retired at the age of fifty due to medical reasons and went on to help people free of charge with legal problems until age eighty-nine, leaving the world a better place. Pineville’s first African American mayor spoke at his funeral about how Judge Jack Holt had helped him as a young boy and stewarded his success.
It was at my grandparents’ breakfast table that I confessed to my grandfather how I wished to become a medical doctor. He was my first coach. He told me to go to medical school and, please remember, not to be afraid even if everyone tells you that you cannot do it. Seek your goals in earnest and when you are done, I’ll help you go to a real school- a School of Law. We laughed, but we both knew it was a beginning. This was in sixth grade. As time went on, I was inspired by both my parents and my grandparents to reach for the stars, but I also hid my true desire to become an MD. This was a hard field as a woman, not previously thought of as a great career for parenting, and, generally, my family wished I had an easier path simply out of love. I later went on to graduate with honors at Pineville High School, and this fortitude brought success with scholarships for me at both Louisiana College and Baylor University. As I was approaching graduation and mounting expenses with school, I learned that I had all the prerequisites to apply to the last of the Bachelor of Science program without an undergraduate degree, offered to only two annually accepted positions at LSUHSC-School of Allied Health in Physical Therapy. So I applied, remembering that the only limitation is what I set for myself. I had no idea if I would be accepted since it was so competitive, so I told no one.
Soon, I received my letter of acceptance with only two months remaining of my junior year at Baylor University, and I needed to move from Waco, TX and register immediately. And the rest was a beautiful opportunity that unveiled. I graduated Cum Laude, received the Deans Award, and was president of the Student Government Association. I was also the editor of the yearbook and was one of two elected to the Alpha Eta Honor Society.
As a licensed P.T., I was delighted. I could take care of patients and see the immediate results and connections this brought to both therapist and patient. I was in my element.
But I wanted more. I wished to make more patient driven decisions and to be a leader of the care plan provided. So, my then-boss, who was in an Administrator role, allowed me to attend an Organic Chemistry II lab at a local university during business hours (this was the only required class remaining to apply to medical school) even as I was the Team Leader of a prosperous Outpatient Rehabilitation Institute. During this time, I also became the instructor of Neuroanatomy at Bossier Parish Community College and the President of the North LA Physical Therapy Association. Again, though, I became afraid. What if my MCAT score was not high, or I was not accepted or, worse yet, I never became a doctor? So, I continued to hide this passion from those around me.
I recall contacting my mother first, to inform her of my new work number. She asked if this was an additional building. I stated, “Well, yes ma’am, to me. It is LSUHSC School of Medicine.” My father, who was my greatest coach, cried for the first time in front of me with delight. I was in a state of shock and fear and excitement all at once.
I remember my father telling me that just because my miracle of becoming a physician was a winding road, there was nothing wrong with starting again. And there was nothing wrong with changing courses.
In 2010, after a love for General Surgery and change to Emergency Medicine Residency, which was my perfect fit, I graduated as Chief Resident. I was honored with the Excellence in Teaching award. I enjoyed the Trauma Committee and Internal Medicine Committee memberships. I am an avid supporter of my medical school that made my small-town Pineville dreams come true. I even delivered my graduation commencement address.
I began my career at Big Baylor, Level One Trauma, immediately after graduating Emergency Medicine Residency. I sought the greatest challenge immediately upon graduation and learned that I thrived best under pressure. I practiced there for a year and a half before returning to Shreveport when my mother fell ill. Still, I learned so much there. I learned that I could do much more than expected and that the hardest days were those that helped me grow the strongest!
Yes, there is pain. Hard work, challenges, and people telling you that you can’t achieve. But nothing can overcome your own will and your own drive. As a confidant and fellow physician shared with me quite simply, “If anyone can do it, you can. And if you cannot, no one can.”
Since I face life and death on a daily basis, despite all efforts there can be sad outcomes, but there is honor in that stewardship. And I have learned from my greatest coach, my father, to never give up. To always “Make it happen.”
I cannot begin to describe the beauty in my daily patient encounters. Yes, some are tough, but the rewards are immeasurable. This year, Willis Knighton Medical Center, where I began as a physical therapy student on a preceptor rotation in 1997, offered me the position of the first female director of Emergency Medicine. It seemed insurmountable. I have a two-year old, family commitments and civic obligations. I did not wish to disappoint the important leaders in my life. Then, as I began thinking about this, confiding with my husband and family, I realized it’s your colleagues, your friends, and your family that empower you. I have been the Director of Emergency Medicine at Willis Knighton North Medical Center since. I cannot and would never be able to accomplish anything without my fellow colleagues, my family and friends. I am forever grateful to them.
Shoot for the stars; they are within your reach!
Written by Jacquelyn Marie Bowers, MD
Director, Willis Knighton Health System, North-Emergency Medicine