Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, Professional in Infectious Ailments, Dies at 62

Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, Expert in Infectious Diseases, Dies at 62

This obituary is part of a series about people who died from the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

In mid-March, it was still relatively quiet at the Medical Center in Bowling Green when the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced the first death of Covid in his state.

But Dr. Rebecca Shadowen (pronounced SHAD-oh-en), a hospital infectious disease and epidemiology specialist, has been on the case. On March 13, she posted a pro-mask message on Facebook: "If you could save someone else's life without hurting your own, would you?"

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a formal recommendation to wear masks on April 3, and the issue quickly became a partisan issue. Dennis Chaney, a colleague at the medical center, recalled Dr. Shadows always reminded others, "Look, folks, this is not politics: it is science."

Dr. Shadowen died of Covid in the medical center on September 11, the hospital said. She was 62 years old and had been sick for four months. She had continued to attend Bowling Green-Warren County's Coronavirus Working Group meetings from her hospital bed.

Dr. Shadowen had been on the hospital staff for 31 years, previously specializing in the treatment of people with H.I.V./AIDS and Lyme disease. At the time of her diagnosis in May, Warren County, including Bowling Green, had at least 750 confirmed cases of coronavirus and she was conducting Covid treatment studies. But she and her family said they were sure she didn't get infected at work, where the precautions were strict.

The most likely source was a domestic worker (who was infected but didn't know) caring for her mother-in-law, who was the first to fall ill. Her husband, Dr. David Shadowen, a retired internal medicine specialist and endocrinologist, and her daughter, Kathryn, also contracted the virus and had mild symptoms. The Shadowens son, Jesse, didn't.

All three survive.

Rebecca Dawn Hunt was born in Louisville on April 4, 1958, to Edwin Audley Hunt and Audrey June (Barrow) Hunt.

She met David Shadowen when both students were at Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University. They married in 1981 after their freshman year of the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Rebecca Shadowen completed her residency at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and continued her studies at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

When Anderson Cooper interviewed the family on his CNN podcast, which aired Sept. 21, he expressed his admiration for Dr. Shadowen's help to others, even though he had seriously endangered himself.

"She was always like this," said Kathryn Shadowen.


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