Dr. Mary Talley Bowden makes for an unlikely medical radical. Left to her own devices, the confessed introvert would prefer spending her time scoping noses, irrigating ears, peeking down throats, and when necessary, performing sinus and other surgeries. Having been trained in otolaryngology at Stanford Medical School, one of the top ENT programs in the country, seems a safe bet that Bowden is highly skilled in her specialty.
“I love it when nobody is bothering me,” Bowden says.
In August 2019, after taking a few years off to raise her four young boys, Bowden thought she achieved medical nirvana. That’s when she opened her trademarked BreatheMD, a practice focused on sinus, sleep, and wellness located in an office building in the upscale Houston community of River Oaks. Bowden earlier had been part of a private ENT practice, but she resented insurance companies telling her how to practice medicine. BreatheMD doesn’t take insurance, so she treats patients as she sees fit.
In March 2020, when covid tests were difficult to come by, Bowden had a relationship with a lab that could handle PCR saliva tests and turn around the results quickly. Word quickly spread around town of Bowden’s capability and soon her office was flooded with symptomatic patients looking to be tested. Administering these tests attracted public criticisms from other doctors, who said PCR saliva tests were unreliable. A recent NIH study concluded that saliva is more sensitive than nasal swabs for diagnosis of asymptomatic and mild covid infection.
What alarmed Bowden was that many of the covid patients who came to see her said their own doctors wouldn’t treat them. Bowden has ethical issues with doctors refusing to treat patients, so she assumed responsibility. Despite warnings from the FDA, CDC, and the legacy media that ivermectin, a drug used around the world to treat parasites, was ineffective treating covid, Bowden got word from her medical contacts that they were having success with the drug. She began prescribing ivermectin, and found it effective, particularly in the early stages of disease.
War With Houston Medical
Bowden, 50, continued seeing patients during the pandemic, but last July noticed a trend she found troubling. Most of the covid patients she saw were fully vaccinated and experiencing symptoms. Bowden reached out to an otolaryngology contact at Houston Methodist to see if the hospital was experiencing the same trend.
“I am seeing a huge uptick in positive cases but what is really surprising is that majority of positive cases are in fully vaccinated people and the majority of these people have symptoms,” Bowden said in an email to her contact at Houston Methodist, which she shared with me. “Any buzz about this at Methodist or elsewhere that you have heard of?—”
The contact responded: “Very interesting, I think a majority of the patients hospitalized are unvaccinated,” the contact responded. “I guess the goal of the vaccine is to prevent against severe disease.” (President Biden last July was still assuring the public that those who received vaccines would avoid contracting covid.)
Bowden, who was fully vaccinated, increasingly became worried about side effects from vaccines that her patients were experiencing. In Bowden’s mind, the vaccines had risks and she felt the government wasn’t being candid about them. She became an opponent of vaccine mandates, and over time, vaccines themselves.
Bowden began sharing her views on Twitter and became more belligerent when other doctors attacked her for spreading “misinformation” and implying she was a quack. Bowden went so far as to tweet, “What the government is doing to its citizens in the United States is incomprehensible.”
Houston Methodist, ranked the best hospital in Texas and the 16th best in the country, was aghast at Bowden’s tweets, particularly since it was among the first healthcare institutions requiring that all its staff get vaccinated. Houston Methodist hospitals have impressive safety standards, easily among the highest in the country. The system’s entire network of Houston hospitals is ranked “A,” by Leapfrog, a respected patient watchdog group. (Some of America’s top-ranked hospitals have poor Leapfrog safety ratings, including Columbia Presbyterian in New York City and Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, both of which have “D” ratings.)
Things quickly turned ugly.
Houston Methodist took to Twitter to deride Bowden, accusing her of “spreading dangerous misinformation which is not based in science.” Then the hospital moved to suspend Bowden pending an investigation, which she learned about from a reporter at the Houston Chronicle. Bowden upped the ante and resigned, broadcasting her decision across social media. Bowden became national news, but the legacy media’s coverage was universally negative and hostile. Typical was this NBC story, which said Bowden was treating covid patients with a drug used to deworm animals.
The Houston Methodist suspension was meaningless to Bowden because she performed all her surgeries at an area ambulatory center.
The Ivermectin Debate
I’m not a doctor and I’m not qualified to determine whether ivermectin is effective treating covid. That said, the lengths the government and legacy and social media have gone to shut down the debate by censoring stories and posts mentioning ivermectin as an effective treatment is alarming. Ivermectin is so verboten that when NPR did a story about doctors using the drug to treat covid in South Africa, the network avoided naming the drug in the headline. The South African government tried banning the import of ivermectin, but the country’s doctors rebelled, and the ban was overruled. Many South African doctors seemingly agree with Bowden about ivermectin’s effectiveness.
That the FDA and CDC deride ivermectin doesn’t make it so, either. Prominent physicians have accused the CDC of skewing data and information for political and propaganda purposes. While ivermectin is available in a veterinary form to deworm animals, it also is included in WHO’s essential medicines list for several parasitic diseases. The Nobel Prize in 2015 was awarded to the scientists who discovered ivermectin. The FDA representing ivermectin solely as veterinary medicine was a dishonest characterization, one that undermined the agency’s credibility.
Emails between NIH head Francis Collins and White House advisor Dr. Fauci obtained under FOIA revealed a discussion about working with the media to discredit prominent scientists associated with The Great Barrington Declaration, which challenged widespread lockdowns and called for “focused” protection for the elderly and most vulnerable. One of those scientists was Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of health policy at Stanford. Another was Sunetra Gupta, an infectious disease epidemiologist who teaches at Oxford.
Another much vilified doctor is Dr. Peter McCullough, who from the get-go argued that vaccines wouldn’t eliminate covid and advocated early treatment with cheap and readily available medicines like ivermectin. I’ve written previously about McCullough, who prior to the pandemic was a world-renowned cardiologist and author of more than 600 peer reviewed articles.
It’s always struck me as noteworthy that the doctors and scientists daring to challenge government lockdowns and edicts invariably have degrees from the top medical schools in the world. By comparison, Jeffrey Zients, the Biden Administration’s covid czar, has an undergraduate degree in political science, though he made millions profiting from the healthcare industry.
Path of Least Resistance
Bowden’s life would be a lot easier if she took the path of least resistance and followed FDA’s and CDC’s ever changing guidelines. Bowden is divorced and raising four “very messy” and “sometimes lazy” boys aged 9, 11, 13, and 14 on her own, so she doesn’t have a lot of time on her hands. Bowden doesn’t profit from prescribing ivermectin; in fact, it’s more time consuming because the major drug store chains won’t fill a prescription for the drug, so she must negotiate with various compounding pharmacies around town.
Bowden continues to get a slew of bad local press, including this recent Houston Chron story noting that she’s “still licensed” after using social media to spread covid “misinformation.” The Chron story shamefully doesn’t quote even one person saying Bowden’s license should be suspended. Bowden lives in heavily Democratic Harris County where people are extensively vaccinated and readily believe all the awful things the media has written about her and her practice. That forces Bowden to limit her social activities.
“I don’t put myself in situations where I will be seen as highly controversial,” Bowden says.
Yet, she refuses to back down.
“I’ve never lost a (covid) patient that has had early treatment,” she says. “I believe in what I’m doing.”
Bowden, who says she’s treated more than 2,000 covid patients, maintains other doctors know she’s acting responsibly but they are afraid to speak up.
“The pandemic is showing how powerless doctors really are,” Bowden says. “They don’t want to lose their jobs.”
Most doctors today are hired help employed by hospitals or medical practices owned by insurance companies and private equity.
A Conservative Doctor
What has been overlooked about Bowden is that she practices medicine very conservatively.
ENT is something I know a little bit about. Many years ago, when I worked in PR, I represented a physician who consistently ranked among the top otolaryngologists in New York City. The physician maintained that most sinus surgery was unnecessary, and that most people could achieve sinus relief and optimum health simply by regularly irrigating their noses. The physician so believed in nasal irrigation that he and his partner developed a spray and an applicator bottle they patented but were unable to successfully commercialize.
Although performing sinus surgeries are very lucrative, Bowden also believes they should be done only as a last resort after all other treatments have failed. Bowden’s practice promotes various sinus therapies, including a sinus rinse and sinus cleanse. Bowden also is board certified in sleep medicine, but she believes inexpensive home tests are sufficient to make a diagnosis.
Bowden makes a point of noting that the ambulatory center where she performs surgeries uses physician anesthesiologists not lesser trained nurse anesthetists. While her practice is thriving and she needs extra help, Bowden is seeking another physician, not a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, which other specialists frequently rely on in their practices.
Medicine Not a “Calling”
Bowden grew up in Atlanta with her two older brothers. Bowden’s father owned a hardware store and her mother stayed home to raise the children. Bowden says she had a “tough childhood,” but immediately makes clear that’s not something she will elaborate on.
In school, Bowden excelled at science, but she considered going into business before deciding to pursue a medical career.
“Medicine wasn’t a huge calling,” Bowden says. She decided on otolaryngology because she wanted to do something surgical and treat various modalities with specialized instruments.
“ENT has a lot of diversity,” she says.
Bowden moved to Houston with her then husband in 2003 and joined a local practice. Dealing with insurance companies and having to determine if a procedure a patient needed would be covered by their plans became increasingly frustrating. Bowden decided to take a few years off to raise her boys.
BreatheMD is Thriving
Despite mostly horrible press, BreatheMD is sufficiently busy that Bowden is looking to bring in another doctor. About half the patients Bowden treats are for covid, the remaining are regular ENT patients. She has a staff of three nurses, plus administrative employees.
Bowden is working with another doctor to open an acute respiratory center at an abandoned hospital in downtown Houston where surgeries can be performed, and dialysis can be administered.
“It will be a place where your doctor only has you in mind,” Bowden says. “No third-party conflicts.”
Bowden isn’t worried about those calling for her to lose her license.
“I would worry about it if I was doing something wrong,” she says.
Asked if she has any regrets about all she’s been through, Bowden replies: “I wish I had started treating covid patients earlier.”