By Moira Blazi
Pat Bowker has worked as a surgical tech with skilled surgeons in some of the nation’s busiest and most prestigious operating rooms. She’s worked at places as different as the south side of Chicago and the high, empty prairies of Wyoming. Bowker has witnessed both the extraordinary kindness and care of humans and the mindboggling self-destruction that we’re also capable. Thankfully, among all of these experiences, Libby stands out to her for all the right reasons.
Recently Bowker completed a six-month assignment at Cabinet Peaks Medical Center, and that was where she began to fall in love with Libby.
“When I came to work on the first day, Dr. Ercanback and Dr. Bell, Erin Moe, Deder Sidner-Kelly, and Sandy Morris all made me feel so comfortable, just like I’d worked there for years,” she said. She noticed right away the “unusual amount of welcoming kindness for a traveling surgical tech.”
“I’ve worked with so many doctors and hospitals over the past 20 years,” Bowker told the Montanian, “prestigious hospitals in big cities and rural areas all over the world, and I want the people of Libby to realize the gift they have here at Cabinet Peaks.”
Bowker speaks with a sassy Georgia accent, and her home base is in Decatur, Georgia, but she has been traveling for most of her life. “I was a professional dancer for 20 years,” she told the Montanian. She danced mostly in 1980’s musicals and standards like West Side Story she said, and in her younger days she was an avid water-skier before following a career path as a surgical tech.
When Bowker arrived in Libby last fall, after a four-day drive from Atlanta, she landed at the Huckleberry House Bed and Breakfast and she has stayed there ever since. “Keith and Ellen Johnson have made me feel like family,” she said.
She has made more real friends here since then, something she does not take for granted. Dr. David Neumann is one of them. “If I asked for fresh eggs, I got them. If I asked him for deer meat, I got that too, and even fresh lamb meat from his own lambs,” she told the Montanian.
Another positive experience she shared was when Bowker began working out with Liz Whalen at her gym Beyond Training (now Studio B). “She’s treated me with so much respect. She never embarrasses anyone, and she doesn’t play favorites.”
Thinking back on her experience in Libby, Bowker smiled and added, “The police officers even wave at you.”
While here, Bowker had some major surgery done, and she chose her local colleagues to do it rather than going to Kalispell. “I have worked with these doctors and I have a lot of respect for them, I felt very safe and confident in their care.”
Her six-month assignment has ended, and Bowker is off to her another job at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, California, a place quite different from Libby.
“I’m going to miss Dr. Bell’s stories about his daughters and their survival courses, and how they couldn’t get out of the driveway,” she said with a laugh. “I’m also going to miss going into stores where everybody knows my name and says hi.”
Overall, Bowker said, she is really just “blown away” by the kindness Libby has shown to her. “Even though you are an outsider, you are still accepted,” she told the Montanian.
“Libby, Montana, in my eyes, is a place of safety, serenity and care.
Bowker hopes to come back for another assignment at Cabinet Peaks Medical Center, but in the meantime, she will be singing the praises of our small town in northwest Montana. She said, “It’s a small town, but its big inside. It isn’t the mountains that make this town great, it’s the people.”