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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Deborah A. Turner, M.D.

Picture of Deborah A. Turner

Deborah A. Turner, M.D.

“I'd liked to be thought of as the type of doctor who did the very best she could for her patients. I love what I am doing and hope to be remembered by the families I helped through difficult times.”


Leonard L. Boswell



Inspired by an older sister, dedicated parents and a deep love of science, Deborah Turner decided at an early age to go into medicine. When she was in grade school, her older sister, a registered nurse, took her to the hospital operating room on numerous occasions.

"At first I wanted to be a nurse," Turner recalls, "but my sister told me since I loved science I should become a doctor." Fortunately, she took her sister's advice and has since built a reputation as a leader, educator and top clinician, one of the few female gynecologic oncologists in Iowa to practice outside of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

She credits her early exposure to medicine through the eyes of a nurse to sensitizing her to patients' needs. And the example of her parents also molded her career. "My dad had only a sixth grade education, my mom a high school diploma, but they always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. I fell in love with the idea of medicine, of taking care of sick patients and I get to do both now with gynecologic oncology."

Considered one of Iowa's finest gynecologic oncologists, Turner is in private practice, in Des Moines. "Oncology is a somewhat unique specialty in that you take care of a patient and, through all the ups and downs in the process, become almost a part of the family," she explains.

Nominated a Local Legend of Medicine by Rep. Leonard L. Boswell (D-IA-3), Turner began her career as a resident in Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, followed by a Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship at the Anderson Cancer Institute in Houston.

She believes education should be a priority for everyone, her own studies at the University of Iowa College of Medicine having established a strong course for her life. Being a teacher is of paramount importance in medicine, she believes. "In medical school, I had fantastic instructors as role models; I was fortunate to have had such a unique and special opportunity to explore my own education."

From 1999 to 2004, she was on the State of Iowa Board of Regents and served as its president pro-tempore. She has received numerous awards and recognition including Outstanding Educator & Mentor, National Medical Student Association, University of Iowa College of Medicine (1990); the Committee on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology (CREOG) Educator of the Year award from the Medical College of Wisconsin (1993); and Teacher of the Year Nominee from Mercy Health Center-North Iowa, Family Medicine residency Program (1999-2000). A frequent speaker on women's health issues, she also has published numerous abstracts, reviews and articles on gynecologic oncology.

Dedication to patients is central to Turner, who declares, "My oncology patients are the most caring, loving people, always teaching me about living life. Even when life is filled with stress and pain, there is still love. My patients give back to me as much as I give to them and more."



Appointed Co-Medical Director, St; Luke's Cancer Center, Davenport, IA


Appointed Associate Professor, Chief Section of Gynecologic Oncology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI


Appointed Board of Regents, State of Iowa, President Pro-tempore


Begins Practice in Gynecologic Oncology, Mercy Surgical Affiliates, Mercy Clinics, Des Moines




University of Iowa College of Medicine


Gynecologic Oncology