Almost 12 months since his passing in July 2017, Dr Keith Beck has been recognised for his community and professional work.
Dr Beck received an OAM in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
The acknowledgement caps a remarkable career, but it is more of a nod to his service to rural medicine through a range of roles for over 60 years.
He was a foundation member of the NSW branch of the Australian Association of Practice Managers, former member Rural Doctor’s network, member Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, visiting medical officer, a board member at Bundaleer Care Services, GP and locum, Wauchope, former practice manager and GP Goulburn Medical Centre, and served as a GP from 1951 until 2017.
He was a strong advocate for senior and geriatric care, management and treatment for over 50 years.
Not bad for a baker’s son.
Keith Beck loved the piano gaining his Masters of Music from the London Conservatory of Music at the age of just 12 years.
He graduated from Sydney University in 1950 with a Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery and later worked at Lewisham Hospital. It was here where he met and later married his best mate and most amazing wife, Shirlee, on January 5 1952.
They honeymooned in Melbourne and afterwards commenced working life in a cottage hospital in Delgate on the Victorian border. During the winter months, he would travel out in the cold and snow, using the Sydney Morning Herald wrapped around his body under his suit to keep warm.
Other times, on house calls, he would be met at the farm gate and be taken to the patient on the hay tray of a tractor.
After six years of running a dispensing practice and being the town and shire doctor, he moved the family – Paul, Damien, Anthony and Denise – along with Shirlee, to Crookwell.
In Crookwell, Keith was awarded the Ambulance Medal, and attracted the very first Ford Galaxy ambulance and fundraised by doing chocolate wheels.
Keith was a catalyst for getting the local pool’s filtration plant upgraded, because of the increase in sickness from the water not being filtrated for safe swimming.
During the early years, Keith accepted payment for his services by means of potatoes, pumpkins, eggs and other essentials such as firewood, knitted gloves and beanies. Paying for quality medical care was tough in the early years.
Keith was always able to provide for the family on weekends after a day of golf or lawn bowls, when he would arrive home with a frozen chook or meat trays… it drove Shirlee crazy.
Keith often did night calls and his practice had a night bell for patients to ring when they required his services after hours.
After 15 years in Crookwell, the family moved to Goulburn and stayed from 1972 to 1991. Keith was the first-ever known practice manager in Australia, managing a big group practice of 19 doctors, and at the time, it was the biggest group practice in Australia.
Keith was invited to give many keynote addresses at conferences in the United States on practice management.
Keith and Shirlee went on a holiday to Port Macquarie and discovered Wauchope, and in 1991, up and moved on the basis of retirement. It wasn’t meant to happen and he found himself doing locums for nearly every medical practice from Kempsey to Taree.
Keith was a man of the highest honesty and integrity, upholding Christian values. He gave his time without complaint to country communities where he provided counselling, maternity advice and delivery and being there for them as a dedicated country GP of over 60 years.
Keith hung up his stethoscope at the age of 85, in 2012, the year Shirlee, his rock, died.
He continued to volunteer on the Board of Bundaleer up until 2015.
Dr Beck passed away on July 5, 2017.