DAA thanks the Georgia Pharmacy Association (GPhA) Journal for allowing us to re-post Phil Ratliff’s article on our Board member Robert Bowles being awarded “The Larry L. Braden Meritorious Service Award”.

Ask those who know Robert Bowles to describe the 69-year old retired pharmacist from Thomaston, and you’ll likely detect a pattern: driven, intellectually curious, a problem-solver, a man with purpose and passion. So, in 2012, when Bowles was diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia, Bowles realized he faced a choice — to continue to live his life with the same sort of drive and passion that defined his legendary pharmacy career (more on that in a moment), or to withdraw from service and succumb to the disease.

Bowles faced his choice with at least a couple of strikes against him. The first 18 months of symptoms were horrible, he recalls. “I had no purpose. I was sleeping 16 to 20 hours a day. My body was telling me sometime wasn’t right but doctors couldn’t find the cause.” It took doctors 18 months to figure out Bowles was suffering from Lewy Body Dementia.

After the diagnosis, Bowles resolved to tenaciously confront the disease, both for his own sake and to help other patients and their families. Bowles started a website in 2015: lbdlivingbeyonddiagnosis.com. Today, it reaches families in 39 countries. He brought renowned dementia expert Teepa Snow to Thomaston in 2016, where 800 healthcare professionals attended. Bowles also serves on the advisory council and board of directors for the Dementia Action Alliance, and is Dementia Spotlight’s executive program advisor.

It’s all in line with Bowles’ longstanding commitment to expanding the frontiers of healthcare. Bowles began his career in 1972, as a partner in an independent pharmacy operation in Thomaston.

In 1983, he bought out his partner and began remaking his practice — he earned certifications in immunization, diabetes education, compounding, and therapeutic stockings and shoes. As a fellow in the American Society of Consulting Pharmacy, he reviewed medication issues for six long-term care facilities, reviewing medication charts and looking for ways to ensure safety and cut medications when there was no diagnosis to justify them.

Along the way, Bowles amassed an impressive list of honors and awards. He served as president of the GPhA Board of Directors in 2008 to 2009. He won the Innovative Pharmacist of the Year Award and the AIP Independent Pharmacist of the Year Award in 2003, the NCPA Prescription Drug Safety award in 2010, and the Bowl of Hygeia in 2014. Topping the list is his win of this year’s Larry T. Braden Meritorious Service Award.

Although his years as a practicing pharmacist are behind him — Bowles retired in 2010 — his personal experience with Lewy Body Dementia has provided a new avenue for continuing his health care service.

“Families affected by dementia are rarely given a path forward,” Bowles said. “At the time of diagnosis, they are often told to get their affairs in order and to return in six months for another visit. That’s not a good game plan. I try to help people understand that there are ways to live with dementia.

“Just because the diagnosis concurs there are things we can do to still have hope and purpose.” —Phil Ratliff