Dr. Robert Cowan’s childhood is one hound dog short of a country song. Cowan comes from Hillsboro—a small farming town 30 miles north of Waco. Wearing boots, working his family’s 100-year-old cattle ranch and playing football under Friday night lights made for an all-American, down-home upbringing. “I think growing up in a small town helped me in medicine more than I realize,” he says. “Small towns value relationships fiercely—and that’s what medicine, particularly OB/GYN, is all about.” Cowan’s easy manner and approachability is also something he attributes to his past. “Small towns have a slower pace of life, and I think that translates into my having a more laid-back demeanor, which my patients really connect to.”
As salutatorian of his high school class, Cowan had college choices. His hometown buddies selected A&M to study agriculture, but he went the urban route and attended UT. “I enjoyed science but never even thought about becoming a physician until I was a junior.” He left college with a BS in biology and from there attended UTMB Galveston to get his MD. His residency in obstetrics and gynecology was completed at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth in 1995, where he was chief resident.
Opening his practice in Austin was an easy decision. “Everything is here! We have access to the Capitol for legislative meetings, the TMA headquarters are here—not to mention the fact that Austin is home to St. David’s Women’s Center of Texas, which is crucial to my practice,” he explains. “Also, let’s not overlook Austin’s great food, great people and amazing outdoor activities.”
One thing Cowan knew positively was that his chosen specialty had to include surgery and interaction with patients. “The best part of my job is establishing long-term relationships with my patients and their families. OB/GYN is ideal because I get to deliver babies,” he says. “I love seeing young families so excited. New dads are especially fun to watch.” A great example of his rapport with his patients can be seen on the cover of this magazine. “The two babies that I am holding on the cover are babies I delivered,” he smiles. “I enjoyed getting to know the families throughout the nine months of pregnancy.”
On the subject of families, Dr. Cowan and his wife Julie have been married for 25 years and enjoy travel and weekends at the family ranch. They have three kids—oldest son Rob and twins Will and Katie. Rob is an accountant in Houston and the twins are seniors in college (UT and A&M). Julie is very active in the community. She is a past president of the Travis County Medical Alliance and was recently elected to a 4-year term on the Austin Independent School District Board ofTrustees.
Personable and funny by nature, Cowan is a different man when talking about young physicians today. He loves teaching residents and mentoring young physicians. “Today’s young physicians are incredibly well educated, but sometimes I worry about their lack of experience in the trenches. Some of the best lessons a doctor can learn occur in the hospital at 2 am.” Cowan understands it’s a new world and technology has allowed for physicians to have more control of their personal time. “But when I see them glancing at their watches, seemingly more concerned about clocking out than patient care, I wonder about the changing mentality,” he explains.
He is also very aware of the fading legacy of older physicians. “I used to go to the doctors’ dining room, search out the older physicians and sit with them,”