Rose M.Z. Gowen, M.D. was elected to the Brownsville City Commission in 2009, and re-elected in 2013 and 2017. As a commissioner, Dr. Gowen focuses on smart growth, quality of life projects and health-related issues such raising awareness of the region’s high levels of obesity and related chronic disease.
Partnering science, city government, and the community has resulted in a rich integrated network of policy and programing throughout the city that enables and invites a healthy living. One partnership that Dr. Gowen forged is with the University of Texas School of Public Health-Brownsville to improve nutrition and accessibility of healthy food choices in the city. Through that work, she was instrumental in the design and development of the Brownsville Farmers’ Market. Dr. Gowen served as the first Chairwoman of the Board of Directors and led the market in becoming a Texas certified farmers’ market. The Brownsville Farmers’ Market was recognized as a model of excellence by the Texas Department of Health and the U.S. Mexico Border Health Commission.
By establishing a working relationship between the UT School of Public Health, many city departments and business entities, Dr. Gowen spearheaded the city’s efforts to provide family-oriented active living programming such as its cycloBia series. Brownsville has hosted cycloBias since 2012 with as many as 12,000 in attendance at each event.
Building a vibrant Brownsville in a healthy way is Rose’s mantra as she goes about creating capacity and momentum with programs like the Vibrant lecture series to create a community that is economically bustling with people-friendly spaces that are health promoting. Speakers have including the Complete Streets Coalition, Jason Roberts and the Build a Better Block initiative, Gil Penalosa from 8-80 Cities, and Dan Burden.
In 2014, Brownsville was recognized out of 250 cities across the country by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a Culture of Health winner. Most recently, she and her team have included bicycle tourism in their toolkit to encourage regular activity in their own people while attracting bicycle tourism to the unique eco environment that is her home. Rose was a leader in designing and developing the Lower Rio Grande Valley Active Plan, which leverages active tourism and active transportation strategies to improve the health and wellness of the region. The project was recently adopted as a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy TrailNation™project.
Rose serves on the board of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the nation’s largest trails and active transportation organization, representing more than 22,000 miles of rail-trail and 30,000 miles of multi-use trails nationwide. The organization works to connect trails and create healthy, thriving communities nationwide.