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Family Physician, Military Leader

John Owen Wins School of Medicine Alumni Achievement Award

A practicing family physician who is a decorated military leader, Brigadier General John Owen is the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine’s Alumni Achievement Award winner.

“I take care of sick people,” said Owen, B.A. Biology, ’78, M.D. ’81. “While that sounds simplistic, it embodies what I do. The other achievements have been in order to achieve care for those who need it.”

Owen’s list of achievements is long. He recently retired from his post as the Air National Guard Assistant to the Command Surgeon, Air Mobility Command. He received the Surgeon General’s Air National Guard State Air Surgeon of the Year in 2007 and the Harry Truman Public Service Award in 2012, which he accepted on behalf of the members of the Armed Forces during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Owen served the state of Missouri as director of the Joint Staff, Missouri Joint Force Headquarters, where he oversaw domestic operations, joint staff, special staff and the state partnership program to the nation of Panama. Honors for his service include the Legion of Merit, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

Owen grew up in Anderson,  a small town in southwest Missouri. UMKC and its School of Medicine appealed to him.

“I came from meager means,” he said. “The six-year medical school program was attractive to me. It took the maybe/maybe not aspect of whether you’d get into medical school out of the equation.”

At UMKC, Owen credits professor Richard Hellman for teaching him the pathology and science of medicine. From Ed Twin, one of the founders of the School of Medicine, he learned the importance of spending time with patients.

“I received an excellent medical education at UMKC,” Owen said. “And I learned a work ethic that always served me well. We worked long hours competently.”

Owen’s residency was through the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa Medical College, and he later worked as an emergency and family physician in Little Rock. In 1988, he returned to Kansas City. He founded the Liberty Clinic in Liberty, MO, where he continues to practice family medicine. He retired from the military in 2012.

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association presents alumni awards to one honoree from each school —including Owen from the School of Medicine — as well as five campus-wide awards at its annual awards luncheon. This year’s event, which will highlight the 80th anniversary of the campus and include the presentation of the 2013 Chancellor’s Medal, will be held on Thursday, April 18, on the UMKC campus. For information and tickets for the event, click here.

As a medical and military leader, Owen said UMKC provided him with lots of opportunities. Although he has achieved much, he continues to learn.

“If we accept a standard of little or no change, we accept less than what we can achieve,” Owen said. “Additional review and action frequently requires much less effort than the original work but can magnify success many times. The absence of review and action can take a strong idea and allow it to fail by not adapting.”


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