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School of Medicine profiles

December 15, 2014

Alpha A. (Berry) Fowler, III, M.D.

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MCV Physicians Distinguished Clinician Award

Professor of Medicine Berry Fowler, M.D., has led the Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine for over 20 years, a period when the Division has routinely been recognized for excellence in education, clinical care, research, and service. He came to VCU SOM as an internal medicine resident, training under renowned clinicians such as Robert Irby, M.D., G. Watson James, M.D., and Orhan Muran, M.D. Moving to Colorado for fellowship study, Dr. Fowler returned to VCU SOM as an Assistant Professor of Medicine and has stayed for the past 32 years.

As Daniel Grinnan, M.D. and Catherine Grossman, M.D. Associate Professors in the Division, explain, “he has always emphasized that the Division is a family, and that those within it should be treated as such.” Dr. Fowler has led this family as the Division has grown and incorporated new clinical areas such as interventional pulmonology, adult cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension. VCU’s Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine Division has been listed in US and World News Report as one of the nation’s best Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine Divisions.

Known for his love of clinical teaching, Dr. Fowler has said that he worked hard to become an effective teacher, desiring “to be able to convey very complex details in an understandable way to both medical housestaff and nursing staff.” This dedication was fruitful; in addition to teaching recognitions from students and residents, Dr. Fowler received the Irby-James Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching from the School of Medicine in 2005. In 2006, Dr. Fowler was awarded the Virginia Commonwealth University Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006 and the prestigious Outstanding Faculty Award by the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia. Due in large part to his example, the Division has been recognized with “Best Teaching Division” awards by the Department of Internal Medicine for many consecutive years.

Dr. Fowler is an accomplished NIH-funded investigator, researching the molecular basis of lung injury and the role of ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C, in reducing the effects of septic acute lung injury and organ failure. His work is a model of bench to bedside research. Drs. Grinnan and Grossman describe his work with vitamin C starting with many years of evaluating and treating patients in the Medical Respiratory Intensive Care Unit (MRICU). Suspecting a role for vitamin C in caring for these patients, Dr. Fowler proceeded with bench research and early clinical studies, which led to his current multi-million dollar, multi-center study that holds great promise for improved patient care. This integration of basic science and clinical knowledge is an outstanding feature of his laboratory and bedside teaching.

Dr. Fowler created an innovative multidisciplinary Pulmonary Nodule Clinic, working with Dr. Anthony Cassano from the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery in order to provide better integrated care to patients. A busy clinician, he sees patients in the private pulmonary clinic and in the fellows’ pulmonary clinic as well as (quite often) serving as the attending physician for the Pulmonary Consult Service.

Dr. Fowler mentors numerous medical students, residents, and fellows. He has been listed in the publication, “Best Doctors in America” for over 20 years. He is in demand as a consultant to the NIH, the FDA, and industry. He is the “go-to” clinician for difficult cases. Dr. Fowler credits his patients for molding him into the type of physician he wanted to be, “someone who is able to care for the most complex of the complex disease processes.” For his excellence in his clinical work, teaching, research, and leadership, Dr. Berry Fowler is most deserving of the MCVP Distinguished Clinician Award.