Professor of Ophthalmology and former chairman and Roy E. Mason Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology
MU School of Medicine
John W. Cowden, MD was chairman and Roy E. Mason and Elizabeth Patee Mason Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Missouri, School of Medicine from July 1, 1993 to September 1, 2014.
Dr. Cowden earned his medical degree in 1964 from the University of Michigan, School of Medicine. He completed a residency in ophthalmology at the Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, D.C. in 1969, and served in the army as chief of the eye service at the 130th General Hospital in Nurnberg, West Germany from 1969 to 1972. In 1973, he completed a fellowship in cornea and external ocular diseases at the University of Florida.
Before coming to MU, Cowden was a professor, residency program director and vice chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Kresge Eye Institute of Wayne State University in Detroit. He was the medical director of the Wayne State University Division of the Michigan Eye Bank and Transplantation Center and served as a member of the medical advisory board of the Eye Bank Association of America.
Dr. Cowden was the medical director of the Missouri Lions Eye Research Foundation and the Heartland Lions Eye Banks. This eye bank is one of the world’s largest providers of human corneas for transplantation and distributes eye tissue for medical research.
Dr. Cowden’s research interests involve the long-term evaluation of refractive surgery. He has published more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed publications and several book chapters on corneal surgery. He was co-principal investigator of the National Eye Institute’s 10-year follow-up study of the Prospective Evaluation of Radial Keratotomy (PERK) and a co-principal investigator of the Canadian Health Department’s study of excimer laser phototherapeutic keratectomy. While at Wayne State University, in Detroit, he was elected as President of the Michigan Ophthalmology Society (1992-1993) and again in Missouri as the President of the Missouri Society of Eye Physicians Surgeons (MOSEPS) in 2003. He also was the President of the Boone County Medical Society in 2002 and was named as the 2014 Boone County Medical Society Doctor of the Year. He was the educational leader for several international educational missions, including China, the Soviet Union, Australia and New Zealand. With his wife, he served as a participant, consultant, and surgeon for Project Orbis, a flying eye hospital with trips to Lima, Peru, Damascus, Syria and Nagpur, India.
He is an enthusiastic supporter of A Call to Serve (ACTS) International, a Columbia, Missouri based humanitarian and development organization that coordinates medical schools and “sister city” relationships between Columbia and Kutasai, Georgia. With ACTS International, Dr. Cowden worked with medical leaders in the Republic of Georgia to draft the country’s first-ever law on organ and tissue transplantation and retrieval procedure. In 1998, he traveled to Georgia with 12 donated corneas where he instructed Georgian surgeons on corneal transplant techniques and assisted them with complex transplantation procedures.
He semi-retired two years ago but one of his greatest joys is teaching residents and helping to restore sight to his patients, which he does on a regular basis at least three days per week. He has been married to his wife Pat for over 55 years. They are the parents of 7 children, have 38 grandchildren and one great grandchild. They visit them all on a regular basis and closely participate in the many activities of their lives.