NORMAN — Linda Demetry Cowan, 65, of Norman, passed away on Dec. 31, 2013, after a long and heroic battle against liver disease. She was born in Urbana, Ill. on Nov. 21, 1948, to John M. and Mary Demetry.
She grew up in Aurora, Ill., graduating from West High before enrolling in Michigan State University. She was always interested in helping people and graduated with a degree in nursing in 1970. To further her studies she enrolled in graduate school at Case Western University in Cleveland, where she met her best friend and love of her life, John Cowan, who was also attending Case Western Reserve. They were married the following May of 1971 in Aurora, Ill.
They then moved to College Park, Md. where Linda received her master’s degree in nursing education from the University of Maryland in 1972. She then worked as a research assistant and instructor at the University of Maryland developing a strong interest in medical research, particularly the spread of diseases, or epidemiology.
Linda was enormously gifted in this field and was admitted to the Johns Hopkins University where she pursued her initial studies in breast cancer. She graduated with both a Masters in Public Health (1975) and Ph.D. (1979) from Johns Hopkins before accepting a post-doctoral fellowship to Harvard University where she did research in neuroepidemiology from 1978-1979.
Linda and her husband then moved to Norman and Linda worked for four years, as an assistant member in the Lipids Research Clinic Program, at the OMRF in Oklahoma City before being hired in 1983 as an assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology of the University of Oklahoma, becoming a full professor in 1995.
She expanded her research studies to include heart disease, focusing on Native American populations, and later to neurological diseases, particularly epilepsy in children. In the last few years of her career, she spent time in Africa helping to study parasites and to help prevent infectious diseases and improve public health.