Seniority / Pediatrician advocates health-care reform, help for parents
Updated 6:15 am, Monday, January 9, 2012
Editor's note: This is one in an occasional series of chats with local seniors about their lives, youthful aspirations, sources of pride and regret, plus a bit of wisdom to share with younger folks.
The following is an interview with Dr. Al Beasley, 90, a retired pediatrician who practiced in Westport for almost a half century. He advocates a one-payer system for health care, where all residents have the same quality of health care at the same cost.
Beasley also contends mothers and fathers need new kinds of help since parenting these days is complicated by economic and societal issues. In his view, that aid might only come when parenting is raised to a prestigious occupation.
Q: How many years have you lived in Westport?
A: 58 years ago I moved to what I called the magical town of Westport.
Q: Are you married?
A: Yes. 31 years to the late Dr. Jean Beasley and now, 32 years to Janet Beasley.
A: None. However, I do have two grand-dogs, and six grand-cats.
Q: Are you retired?
A: From practice, yes, but still active. I have been on the board of trustees at Earthplace for many years, where I have developed the Green Earth Series. This informs residents about issues that must be addressed for the survival of our habitat, our environment and our world
Q: What did you do?
A: I practiced pediatrics in Westport for over 48 years and was a founder of the Willows Pediatric Group. I am still an associate clinical professor of pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, retired, and senior attending emeritus in pediatrics, Norwalk Hospital. I volunteered at many nonprofit entities in the community, and in departments and on committees of the Town of Westport. I was medical director of the Westport Health Department during the 1950s.
Q: What values were important to you during your working years as a pediatrician?
A: The health and welfare of many families' most precious assets: their infants, children and young adults. I learned about the health care needs of the children of Westport and the surrounding communities and how to address them.
Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A physician as was my father.
Q: What was a significant memory or defining moment in your childhood?
A: I attended the progressive Walden School in New York City from nursery school through high school. My mother died when I was nine. My father died when I was 16. And the school and the parents of many of my classmates nurtured me and cared for me until college. My paternal uncle was my guardian. He lived in Chicago. I did not want to leave The Walden School.
Q: Do you have a favorite work of art?
A: Yes. The Flutist, a sculpture by Stanley Bleifeld. My daughter Jean was then a flutist and the model.
Q: What music do you favor?
A: Jazz, big band and solo guitar.
Q: Who was the greatest President of the United States?
A: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He saved the country from disaster during the Great Depression. He was a master in developing vital programs and government agencies needed for the nation' survival.
Q: If you could tell President Obama one thing, what would it be?
A: Take steps to prevent a disaster in health care. A one-payer system for all, where all residents, including the President and members of Congress and the Senate, have the same quality of health care at the same cost is the rational solution. Control of the insurance and drug companies, which are primarily profit-oriented, is a must.
Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Right now, it is the inconsiderate and dangerous driver who refuses to dim his or her lights when approaching, or when directly behind me.
Q: Do you have any regrets in life?
A: Not really. Perhaps, I could have done more.
Q: What achievements of yours are you most proud of?
A: Having the opportunity to improve the health and welfare of the infants, children and young adults in our community, and the opportunities to help and advise a number of non-profit organizations as well as departments and committees of the Town of Westport.
Q: What, if anything are you greatly concerned about?
A: Health issues such as obesity and diabetes, which are becoming epidemic in our children and adolescents. Parenting is becoming even more difficult. There are many wonderful parents in our community. However, the numerous societal and economic issues that now exist are making it harder and harder for them. It often seems as though parenting should be rediscovered as a prestigious occupation.
Q: Best piece of advice for the younger generation?
A: Pursue your goals in a field you truly enjoy. Enjoying what you do is paramount to being really satisfied with your career and your life. Also, make an effort to ensure that those less fortunate than you have the same opportunities.
Q: What gives you your greatest joy?
A: The love of my wife. Seeing happiness and good health in those I love and those I know. Observing well-being and success in my former patients. Knowing that what I have offered to the community has had positive results.
Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: To continue to serve the community and enjoy retirement. It seems that the more time off you have, the more you need.
Q: If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for?
A: Peace and well-being in a world where all human beings can live in harmony with each other.