Rallying Around Quality of Life Dr. Bud Beck Continues His Crusade for a Healthy San Diego
In May, when Dr. Clyde “Bud” Beck and his wife visit Paris, chances are they’ll be thrilled by the spectacular view from the pinnacle of the Eiffel Tower and absorbing Parisian elegance from the Champs- & #201;lys & #233;es, all the while capturing photographic images to make it all last.
After all, that’s what all tourists do.
But, Beck, 61, senior vice president and chief community health officer for Scripps and chairman of Community Health Improvement Partners in San Diego (CHIP), isn’t your average traveler.
If you really want to get a measure of how people live, visit their hardware stores, Beck says. “They tell you a great deal about how people live.”
Have you ever been in a hardware store in San Francisco’s Chinatown, he asks?
“If you look at utensils, you see 50 different kinds of chopsticks I find that fascinating.”
Considering his work, his fascination for hardware stores isn’t that unusual.
An internist for 28 years, Beck has developed a sense for revealing buried secrets and perfecting his skills. He has dedicated himself to studying historical events to explain people’s present health care status and possible outcomes.
“If you are a good physician in that particular specialty, you listen a lot,” he says. “The history (of a patient) is much more important than the physical exam or laboratory work.”
Beck knew since the sixth grade he wanted to become a doctor.
“I had a wonderful family physician who was one of my childhood heroes,” Beck says. “He smoked and the cigarette ashes would roll across his big pot belly, down off his white coat and onto the floor. But he had a twinkle in his eye and a kindness about him that came across without many words.”
Ironically, in his role as chairman of CHIP, Beck is fiercely fighting to create a healthier, smoke-free environment.
CHIP is a collaborative effort between all of San Diego’s major health care providers, insurers, the county of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, the United Way of San Diego County, and others to assess and find solutions to local health care problems. Foremost, CHIP helps provide San Diego’s underserved with access to health care, including mental health care, address problems of alcohol and drug abuse and violence.
“A lot of things are under way,” Beck says.
The county initiated an advocate program where women who had been victimized by domestic violence are trained to help other women escape a bad situation.
CHIP also created an “Improving Access to Healthcare Initiative” for the more than 600,000 uninsured San Diegans , among the highest uninsured population in the nation.
Beck, who emphasizes his devotion to CHIP, realizes San Diego’s health care problems are far from being solved.
The 26-year La Jolla resident vowed to keep up the good fight for a healthy San Diego. Beck says he had plenty of opportunities to go elsewhere over the years, but he and his wife, Lorraine, a psychologist in private practice, are firmly rooted here.
In 1974, Beck reluctantly left Boston to head the nephrology department at the UCSD Medical Center.
“I didn’t want to come out West at all,” Beck remembers. “It’s a foreign turf compared to the Midwest and East Coast. It starts by looking out of the window.” San Diego’s desert terrain with its glistening blue sky and year-around mild temperature, he says, is a stark contrast to the seasonal weather of eastern states.
Born in Flint, Mich., in April 1938 as the son of an electrical engineer and a legal secretary, Beck was used to bone-chilling winters and hot, humid summers.
With his mind set on becoming a clinician, Beck went straight to the University of Michigan after high school.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1961 and completed two years of medical school. He was thrilled to be accepted at the Columbia Medical Center in New York for an internship and first-year residency.
“I wanted to go to a city hospital-type setting, because the hospital in medical school was a referral center. So I wanted to see a little blood and thunder; it was a great place to go.”
He got that and more. The 40-bed ward catered to New York’s poorest residents. Beck remembers at one point he treated patients who spoke eight different languages , all but English. Sign language and family members helped bridge the gap.
A nursing school graduate named Lorraine filled his prescription for love. They were married in 1965.
The same year, the couple moved to an Air Force base in Georgia where Beck completed his residency. A military hospital was his ticket to not being drafted out of residency, he says.
It was a bitter pill to swallow.
The town was racially segregated and offered the newlyweds little opportunity for fun. The birth of their first child, Kim, in 1966 marked the highlight of their stay.
The same year, Beck gladly accepted a fellowship offer at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Two years later, the Beck family celebrated the arrival of their second child, Jonathan.
In 1970, Beck finished his fellowship. He stayed on as a faculty member until 1974.
From 1974 to 1979, Beck worked as a clinical professor of medicine at UCSD.
He went into private practice, but gave it up in 1991 to join Scripps Health (now Scripps) administration. He moved through the Scripps ranks and was nominated senior vice president and chief community health officer for Scripps Health in 1999.
Beck , an articulate speaker who practices cautious diplomacy , seems perfect for a job that requires him to bring together rival health care agencies to develop wellness and prevention programs.
His role as chairman of CHIP, a collaborative effort of 27 members that includes Kaiser Permanente, Sharp HealthCare, the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, United Way, UCSD School of Medicine, and the Healthcare Association of San Diego and Imperial counties, is an extension of his work at Scripps.
The Great Outdoors
To clear his mind, Beck takes to the wilderness. Among his favorite national parks are Yosemite, and Zion and Bryce in Utah. He enjoys hiking and photography.
Beck’s daughter, Kim, whom he describes as “an outdoor woman,” used to accompany him on hikes in the New Hampshire woods.
Kim Beck now works for the sports equipment maker Northface in San Francisco.
Jonathan Beck is vice president of sales at a San Francisco-based Internet infrastructure firm.
“I am delighted they are both doing things they love,” Beck says. “They landed in places where they are attuned to their talents.”
For Beck, however, tackling San Diego’s health care problems remains his top priority.
“The important thing in my life is trying to get people to rally around this bigger vision of improving the quality of life at this time, but also to help people gain an awareness that health issues have a great thing to do with population density, air quality, transportation and the terrible sewage problem,” he says.
Beck’s vision of involving everyone, including business people, schools, and government agencies and insurers, can be tricky.
Beck says optimistically, “It’s a very ambitious task, but I think it’s doable.”
Those who know him believe he’ll pull it off.
“He’s the kind of person in this community who is so committed to the collaborative process, that if he says he can achieve this, he can and will do it,” says Judith Yates, vice president of the Healthcare Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties.