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Deborah (Deb) Bowen, PhD, a professor and colleague in the Department of Bioethics and Humanities, passed away on  Saturday, Aug. 20 after an extended illness. According to her wife Linda, her passing was peaceful and painless.  

“While Deb was nationally, indeed internationally, known for her research in health promotion and the use of interventions to address unjust health disparities, her loss will be felt most acutely by her many local collaborators and mentees. She generously guided multiple generations of UW junior faculty and trainees, both here in Bioethics and Humanities as well in the Institute for Public Health Genetics and Department of Health Systems and Population Health in the School of Public Health,” says Stephanie Malia Fullerton, DPhil, professor and interim department chair of Bioethics and Humanities. 

A leader in biobehavioral and community health

Bowen joined the UW School of Medicine Department of Bioethics and Humanities in 2014 after serving as professor and chair in the Department of Community Health Sciences of the School of Public Health at Boston University. Prior to her time at Boston University, she was a faculty member in the UW Department of Health Services and a member of the Public Health Sciences Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 

Bowen was a co-author on over 400 peer-reviewed publications and devoted her career to studying biobehavioral determinants of diverse forms of healthcare delivery and health promotion, including cancer prevention and genomic medicine. Much of her research focused on identifying and reducing health disparities in diverse populations, including disparities based on race, ethnicity, tribal status, gender, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation. 

She was the principal investigator of several NIH-funded grants focused on cancer risk feedback and communication, most recently the Early Detection of GEnetic Risk (EDGE) study. She served in the coordinating centers of three large multi-center prevention trials: the Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET), the Women’s Health Trial: Feasibility Study in Minority Populations (WHT:FSMP) and the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). She was also the director of the Prevention Research Center at Boston University, focused on improving the health of public housing residents.  

Her research impact was significant and wide-ranging. She received multiple honors and distinctions, including “Outstanding Health Psychologist” in 1997 from the American Psychological Association, recipient of the “SIGGIE” award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) Cancer Special Interest Group in 2012 and SBM’s Distinguished Research Mentor Award in 2016.  

Bowen was also a valued collaborator and mentor to many biobehavioral health and public health genetics students, both here at the UW Medicine, Fred Hutch and in Boston. 

Celebrating a beloved friend and colleague

A memorial celebration of her life is planned for later in the fall. In the meantime, expressions of condolence to Bowen’s family can be directed to Linda McBlane, 3401 S. Charles St., Seattle, WA, 98144. 

You can share memories of Bowen through an online form set up by the Department of Bioethics and Humanities. If you have photos to share, please send them to 

If you would like to donate in honor of Deb’s legacy, you can donate to a fund through the UW School of Medicine Department of Bioethics and Humanities. The fund in Deb Bowen’s name will support scholarships in honor of Bowen’s far-reaching commitment to public health sciences. 

Originally published by: The Department of Bioethics and Humanities.