Karen Bowling

PRINCETON — Tuesday was the first day on the job for Karen Bowling, new CEO of Princeton Community Hospital, and she hit the ground running in familiar territory.

“I can’t tell you how much this means to me,” the Wyoming County native said of her new role. “It’s like coming home.”

Bowling, who received her associate’s degree in nursing at Bluefield State College, said the southern part of the state has a “special place in my heart” and it’s a place where people “care about each other … and family is important.”

The Mullins High School graduate said the community spirit is still alive in this region and she recalled being a cheerleader for her alma mater, which later closed through consolidation.

“All the families came to games,” she said.

That community spirit has carried over into her overall vision of rural health care.

“A key component of my job is to think about how to do a better job in outreach in the community,” she said, and that includes helping people take care of themselves and monitor health conditions before they reach a critical stage and require hospitalization.

Bowling said a good example is managing diabetes, which is a major prevalent health condition in this area and around the state.

“I know a little lady from Wyoming County who is 86 and has been a diabetic for most of her life,” she said. “From day one, she paid attention and she followed a diet and took medication. She could be a poster child for how to effectively manage the illness.”

The key, she said, is taking personal responsibility for your health.

“We treat people in hospitals all the time who are in the hospital because they didn’t pay attention to the warning signs, and did not follow doctor’s orders, did not take care of themselves,” she said. “We need to keep them from coming back to the hospital.”

That prevention includes community outreach, she said, promoting healthy living in the communities the hospital serves.

“We have got to figure out ways to get people to work with us on their health and well-being,” she said. “If we can do that, if they feel like we are their partners, lives can be improved and the needed services can be provided.”

Bowling also said she wants part of her job to be a “cheerleader for Mercer County,” and she has found the right avenue to do that, combining her love of the region and its people, and experience in health care.

In December 2020, WVU Hospitals entered into a management agreement and clinical affiliation with PCH and WVUMedicine made the announcement of Bowling taking over last month.

Bowling had been serving as executive vice president of government affairs for the West Virginia University Health System and president and CEO of WVU Medicine’s Braxton County Memorial Hospital and Summersville Regional Medical Center.

Bowling has served in various leadership roles, including as chair, of the West Virginia Hospital Association. She was also a board member of several organizations, including the Raleigh County Community Action Association, the YMCA of Beckley, and the Beckley Health Right Clinic and served as chair of the Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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