The following year, she was hired as health-sciences dean at Mountain State University. The school was shut down in August after losing its accreditation. Bowling also was a professor of nursing at Mountain State.
She previously served as chairwoman of the West Virginia Hospital Association. She volunteers as a family nurse practitioner with Beckley Health Right, a free clinic.
She's currently enrolled in a doctorate in education program through Capella University, an online university based in Minneapolis.
Bowling also has served on the board of directors of Raleigh County Community Action and YMCA of Southern West Virginia.
"Karen's commitment to the health and well-being of her community has been evident throughout her career . . . " Tomblin said in a prepared statement.
West Virginia's last DHHR secretary with a hospital administration background was Patsy Hardy, who worked as CEO of St. Joseph's Hospital in Parkersburg and the former Putnam General Hospital in Hurricane. Former Gov. Joe Manchin named Hardy to head the DHHR in 2009. Hardy stepped down a year later.
Bowling frequently has contributed to the campaigns of Manchin, now a U.S. senator, and Rep. Nick Rahall, both D-W.Va.
Last month, Tomblin's office released a consultant's audit that found the DHHR had an "unstable work environment." The consultant, Pennsylvania-based Public Works LLC, estimated that West Virginia could gain new revenue or save $56.7 million, if the DHHR followed 78 recommendations outlined in the audit.
The report also took issue with the DHHR's travel spending, which has increased 35 percent during the past two years. Forty percent of the agency's travel budget was spent on trips to training seminars.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.