Dr. Mark Bowling, right, considers Dr. Paul Walker, left, to be his mentor. Bowling now has the professorship that bears Walker’s name.

Dr. Mark Bowling, left, considers Dr. Paul Walker, right, to be his mentor. Bowling now has the professorship that bears Walker’s name. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)



New professorship furthers legacy

August 11, 2017

By Rich Klindworth
ECU News Services

Dr. Mark Bowling is in a unique situation. He is the first Paul R. and Kathryn M. Hettinger Walker Distinguished Professor of Clinical Oncology in East Carolina University’s Department of Oncology. 

The professorship honors his mentor.

“I’m overwhelmed, very humbled and exceedingly blessed,” Bowling said. “Dr. (Paul) Walker is probably the best physician and man, other than my father I think, that I’ve had the pleasure to work with. He is a true legend in medicine, he is a true doctor.” 

Bowling, a 2001 Brody School of Medicine graduate, is the division chief of pulmonary medicine in ECU’s department of internal medicine and director of thoracic oncology at the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center – a joint venture between Vidant and the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. 

Walker is chief of hematology/oncology at the Brody School of Medicine. He and his wife, Kathy, said Bowling was the perfect choice for this professorship.

“He is a ‘high standards; no excuses’ person because of his passion for lung cancer care,” Kathy said. 

“High standards; no excuses” and “It matters” are phrases the Walkers and Bowling say often. Walker said he learned the mantra from one of his son’s high school football coaches and has implemented that mentality within the thoracic and hematology/oncology programs. 

“That’s what makes him (Dr. Walker) so great,” Bowling said. “There are not a lot of people around like him and he doesn’t tolerate anything less than excellence. That’s what he demands from himself and what he demands from fellow physicians, because that’s what our patients demand and that’s what our patients deserve.”

Dr. Bowling performs a bronchoscopy on a patient, collecting lung cells to test for possible cancer.

Bowling’s primary focus is performing bronchoscopies, inserting a small camera into patients’ lungs and taking biopsies of potential cancers. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome. He plans on using the $20,000 a year the professorship provides to build a research structure that will enable him and his colleagues to report the various outcomes of their patients. 

By funding this professorship, the Walkers have given the largest gift ever by a faculty member of ECU, at $500,000. Of the amount, $333,000 will draw a state match of $167,000 to fund the professorship. The rest will serve as seed grants to jump-start promising research so scientists can collect data and subsequently apply for larger grants. 

The Walkers made their gift back in 2010. Once the funding was in place, the search began to fill the position. “We were waiting for just the right person, and Mark Bowling is just the right person,” said Kathy. 

A board member of the Medical and Health Sciences Foundation, Kathy said her association with the foundation has increased her awareness of the importance of endowed professorships in recruiting and retaining high quality faculty. 

“There are plenty of people who would like to pull him (Bowling) away,” she said. 

“His leadership is superb,” echoed Walker. “Mark is somebody who has a passion to think. His technical skills are superb. He cares about everybody. He inspires people, and everything he does is because it matters to every individual he takes care of.”

Bowling is quick to turn the attention from himself to his team. He credits the multidisciplinary thoracic oncology team he works with for their program’s success in treating lung cancer patients.

“Individually we’re OK, but together we’re absolutely excellent,” he said. “I think that’s what is really unique about this place. Our situation is we really have an all-star team.

“I think we all have a calling in life, and I was very blessed to come here to run into Dr. Walker, to get that mentorship, to get that path forward in lung cancer,” he continued. “And I think it’s God setting me on that right path and things have fallen in place. I do it because it matters and it’s the right thing to do.”

 (Video by Rich Klindworth)