Betty Ann Lowe (1934–2013)
Betty Ann Lowe developed Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock (Pulaski County) into a nationally known, competitive hospital by acting as an advocate, enlisting the help of a famous family, procuring state funding, and adding new, innovative departments. In addition to being a prominent figure in Arkansas pediatrics, she became the first Arkansan to become a pediatric rheumatologist and gained widespread notice as the physician of Chelsea Clinton, President Bill Clinton’s daughter.
Betty Lowe was born on March 23, 1934, in Grapevine, Texas, to John and Winnie Lowe; she had three siblings, including a sister Mary, who became a renowned chemist. Lowe’s family soon moved to Enola (Faulkner County), where she was raised. During her sixth-grade year, the Lowes moved to Fourche Valley (Yell County), where her parents worked at Fourche Valley High School. Her father was superintendent and her mother was school librarian.
Lowe completed high school at the age of sixteen and attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where she earned a BS. She earned her MD from the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), where she also completed a pediatric internship. In 1957, Lowe began her medical residency with the Children’s Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Following her residency, Lowe became an instructor at Harvard Medical School.
There is no record of Lowe marrying, and she had no children. She claimed to have plenty of children in her life—from her many patients, who returned with their children and eventually grandchildren, to her nieces and nephews.
Lowe returned to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in the late 1960s and became medical director there in 1977. She transformed the hospital from a small-scale, regionally known institution into one of the “largest and best children’s hospitals in the country.” Her unique perspective was an enormous asset for the hospital since she had experience as a primary care practitioner, hospital administrator, and professor of pediatrics.
She met Bill Clinton and his family during his time as governor of Arkansas, and she later served as Chelsea Clinton’s pediatrician. In the late 1970s, Bill Clinton appointed Lowe as chair of a task force on Integrated School Health Services that later led to state funding for the first Arkansas Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which was set up at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
While Lowe was at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, she also served as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics from 1993 to 1994. Her work extended past clinical hours through her column, “Ask Dr. Lowe,” on the hospital’s website, which she continued even after retirement. Lowe became Arkansas’s first pediatric rheumatologist by training at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas, and LeBonheur Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee, and she continued this specialty by opening an outpatient arthritis clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Upon Lowe’s retirement as medical director of Arkansas Children’s Hospital in 2001, Bill Clinton traveled to Arkansas to deliver a speech in her honor.
Lowe was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Golden Apple Award from UAMS in 1980, the Arkansas Caduceus Club Distinguished Faculty Award in 1982, the Paul Harris Fellow Award of Rotary International in 2000, and the UAMS Chancellor’s Award in 2002. She also received a one-million-dollar trust endowment as the Harvey and Bernice Jones Chair in Pediatrics in 1997.
For additional information:
“Betty A. Lowe, M.D.” National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/locallegends/Biographies/Lowe_Betty.html (accessed January 18, 2022).
Gillespie, Kimberly. “Betty Ann Lowe.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 18, 1997, High-Profile Section, pp. 1D, 5D.
April M. Robertson
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
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