Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Otis R. Bowen (1985–1989): Secretary of Health and Human Services

Otis Ray Bowen was born February 26, 1918, in Fulton County, Indiana. He received his A.B. in chemistry (1939) and his M.D. (1942) from Indiana University, interning at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana (1942-1943).

Bowen served as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1942 to 1946. He practiced general medicine in Bremen, Indiana, for more than twenty-five years (1946-1972) and, for a brief time, was coroner for Marshall City, Indiana (1952-1956). Bowen also chaired the Indiana Public Health Commission from 1961 to 1965. From 1976 to 1985, Bowen was a clinical professor of family medicine at Indiana University of Medicine.

Aside from his medical career, Bowen spent a lot of time in politics. He served in the Indiana House of Representatives (1956-1958 and 1960-1972), becoming both minority leader (1965-1967) and Speaker (1967-1972). Bowen was also governor of Indiana (1973-1981) and was chairman of the Republican Governor's Conference in 1978. He chaired the President's Commission on Federalism (1981-1982) and the advisory council of BACCHUS (1979-1985).

Bowen was a member of the Department of Family Medicine at Long Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, from 1981 to 1985. Thereafter, he served in the Reagan cabinet as secretary of health and human services (1985-1988).