Dr Richard Edward Beck, 1923–2014

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 56, No. 9, November 2014, Page 446 Obituaries

Dr Beck was the first child of Marshall and Mary (née McBride) and eldest grandchild of the late Sir Richard McBride, 16th premier of British Columbia. Dr Beck was born in the Bute Street Hospital in Vancouver and raised on Lulu Island and in Kerrisdale, where he attended Kerrisdale Elementary, Point Grey Junior Secondary, Magee High School, and UBC. As there was no medical school in British Columbia at that time, he went east to Queen’s University, graduating in 1947. Travel to Kingston by train was both long and expensive, so he would often spend Christmas holidays with friends rather than at home with family. He missed his parents and younger sisters, and they him, as evidenced by their regular letters.

Following an internship at Vancouver General Hospital, Dr Beck undertook fellowship training in internal medicine at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. He returned to Vancouver in 1952 as the first teaching fellow in internal medicine for the newly formed UBC Faculty of Medicine. He maintained a clinical faculty position with the medical school, had an office-based practice in hematology and internal medicine, and worked part-time at the BC Cancer Institute (now the BC Cancer Agency).

Dr Beck was one of the first in BC to work as a medical oncologist, long before medical oncology was recognized as a specialty in Canada. He played a major role in developing the provincial outreach program before clinics were established around the province. Dr Beck firmly believed in the agency’s potential to provide friendly and compassionate cancer care of the highest standard across the province, and his legacy lives on today in the province-wide approach to cancer care. As cancer care became his main focus, Dr Beck started working full-time with the BC Cancer Agency and became director of outreach until his retirement in 1988.

Colleagues recall Dr Beck’s gentlemanly manner, his devotion to patients, and his keen attention to supporting practising colleagues—especially family physicians, internists, surgeons, and community-based hematologists and oncologists. One colleague remembers that Dr Beck was a hard person to cover for because, to his patients, no one else would do.

Dr Beck was a registrant of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC for 71 years, initially as a student, then a full registrant, and latterly as honorary, nonpractising. He joined the BC and Canadian Medical Associations in 1955 and was recognized with honorary life membership following his retirement. He had long affiliations with the BC and Yukon division of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Osler Society, the North Pacific Society of Internal Medicine, and the Boys and Girls Club of Vancouver, for which he provided and arranged medical exams for children off to enjoy Camp Potlatch.

Dr Beck had everything one could ever wish for in life: a close and loving family and a challenging and rewarding career. He traveled widely, read extensively, worked in the garden, played golf, went fishing, and followed the Lions and the Canucks. He got a hole-in-one (twice!) and caught steelhead—the last one at age 83. So there was no Stanley Cup, but he had almost everything one could ever wish for.

Dr Beck was loved by family and friends and respected by colleagues, coworkers, and patients. He was kind, generous, witty, respectful, and polite. He will be truly missed. Dr Beck is survived by his wife, Jean; children, Ruth (Bill), Jean (Jim), and Ted; and four grandchildren.
—Jean Jamieson, MD

Jean Jamieson, MD,. Dr Richard Edward Beck, 1923–2014. BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 9, November, 2014, Page(s) 446 - Obituaries.

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