“Hard work …”
“... Gets it done!”
This call and response echoes throughout the Mowen household often, where Dr. Steven Mowen, instills in his 9-year-old son the same lessons his father instilled in him.
Mowen’s circuitous path from music to the military to medicine – he is co-chief resident for the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV Department of Emergency Medicine residency program – is proof that Mowen’s fatherly advice is more than just words.
“My dad was always my hero growing up,” Mowen says, “I even played the tuba just like he did.”
Mowen’s father also spent years teaching before becoming an administrator for the Department of Defense Education Activity, a federal school system responsible for the education of children of active duty military. The position took Mowen’s family to military bases across the U.S. and Caribbean, including stints at Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Knox in Kentucky, and at Guantanamo Bay.
Mowen comes from a family with a long history in the military, including a grandfather who served in World War II and an uncle who served in Vietnam. When asked what Veterans Day – observed this weekend – means to him, Mowen reflects, “I am tremendously thankful, and I am awestruck at what has been accomplished by everyone who's come before me.”
Growing up with an emphasis in education, it’s no wonder that Mowen earned a bachelor's degree in music education from Montana State University. Mowen then followed a mentor from the university to UNLV where began pursuing a master’s in instrumental conducting in 2012.
While studying for his master’s degree, two life-altering events occurred: Mowen met the woman who would become his wife, and he auditioned for the Marine Corps Band.
“It was love at first sight,” Mowen says of meeting his wife. Within three months of meeting, the couple was engaged.
For Mowen, military bands were obsession at first sight. His father’s position with the Department of Defense Education Activity exposed Mowen to military life at an early age, and he remembers having an immediate “fascination with military bands and desire to join the military.” So, when Mowen auditioned for and was offered a position with the Marine Forces Pacific Band, he jumped at the chance and left UNLV, although he would return years later in a completely different field.
Before playing with the band, Mowen spent three months in Marine Corps basic training, which he calls “fantastic training in what it means to be disciplined.” After basic training, Mowen spent three months in combat training before finally being reunited with his tuba at the Navy School of Music in Virginia. Following months of grueling work, Mowen finally began performing throughout the Pacific.
A year into having the job of his childhood dreams, Mowen and his wife would encounter yet another life-altering event. The day – September 27, 2014 – began normally enough.
“I was playing a gig with the brass quintet on the Marine base in Kapiolani, Hawaii,” he remembers. “I get up, I put on my uniform, we muster at 6 a.m., we go through our set, and we go play the gig. I came back around 10 a.m., and my phone had exploded. I had around 40 text messages from my wife.”
Mowen and his wife were expecting, and, scanning the texts, Mowen learned that his wife had unexpectedly gone into labor at 29 weeks. He rushed to meet his wife at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children.
“My wife had several complications, and so she was intubated and carted off to the ICU after an emergency C-section, and my son was carried off to the neonatal intensive care unit,” Mowen explains. “It really was like something out of a movie … the ICU was on one side of the hospital, and the neonatal intensive care unit was on the other side of the hospital. The staff quite literally looked at me and said, ‘Who do you want to go with?’”
Both mother and son would emerge from the hospital happy and healthy. Mowen credits the emergency doctor at Kapiolani for taking his wife’s medical complaints seriously and saving her life and his son’s.
“It was at that moment that I thought, ’I'm gonna go into medicine, and because of this, there's only one place to be: it's got to be emergency medicine,” Mowen says, “I want to be that guy that saved my wife for somebody else.”
No stranger to intense training, Mowen, who at that point had no background in science, threw himself into studying for the MCAT. He enrolled in the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, a full-time course of study for academically promising service members interested in medical school.
“I didn’t even know what carbon was,” Mowen jokes, but he would be taking the MCAT within one year. Mowen's hard work, once again, got it done, and he was accepted into Uniformed Services University School of Medicine.
Now, as co-chief resident in the department of emergency medicine, he draws upon his time as a tubist to ensure quality care.
“I would spend hours in the practice room daily. My lips would bleed, quite literally, they would bleed by practicing enough, and I wouldn't get in front of an audience to play a solo until I knew my portion or my solo upside down backwards inside out. I had to earn that spot on the stage, every single time I went out,” Mowen says, “and I thought of that in med school, and I think of that still. I won't put myself in front of a patient until I've earned that spot to be there. I put in my time outside of the hospital learning, going through procedures in my head, using simulation models for procedures, and reading my books. I put in the time before I even stepped foot into the hospital, so that I've earned the right and the privilege, even, to see patients. The ER is my stage now.”