Nick Beechnau, DO (left), and Tim Beechnau, DO, run Ravenna Family Practice in Michigan, which Dr. Tim Beechnau’s father, Lou Beechnau, DO, opened in 1954.
Keeping the dream alive

Putting the ‘family’ in family medicine

A grandfather, father and son have served generations at rural Michigan private practice since 1954.

On one of the most memorable days of his intern year, Nick Beechnau, DO, delivered a baby near his hometown in western Michigan, only to learn later that his father, Tim Beechnau, DO, had delivered the baby’s mother. And a few decades before that, his grandfather, Lou Beechnau, DO, was the physician who brought her mother into the world.

“I have delivered a lot of second-generation families,” says Dr. Tim Beechnau, who has served patients at his family’s private practice in Ravenna, Michigan, for more than three decades. “That’s one of the things that’s so great about having a long-running family medicine practice. I know most of the kids’ grandparents and some of their great-grandparents.”

As generations of families have navigated life in the rural community with a population of just over 1,200, generations of Beechnau DOs have cared for them.

Dr. Lou Beechnau opened the doors of the private practice in 1954 and was joined in 1982 by his son Dr. Tim Beechnau, who ran the practice on his own for more than 20 years after his father passed away.

This year, Dr. Nick Beechnau joined the practice after completing his residency—a notable decision because the number of independent physicians practicing in the U.S. continues to decline. Just 1 out of every 3 physicians will be independent by the end of next year, according to a report from Accenture.

Lou Beechnau, DO (Photo provided by the Beechnau family)

“Depending on the area, private practice is not an option for many physicians,” Dr. Nick Beechnau says. “There are obvious advantages to both independence and employment. But for me, it was a very easy decision because I wanted to work with my dad.”

Ravenna Family Practice continues to be financially viable because the office has a strong base of loyal patients, Dr. Tim Beechnau says. In addition, as a smaller outfit, the office doesn’t have many of the high expenses that larger practice groups do, such as extensive staffing and space costs.

Through the years, the Beechnau DOs have helped each other navigate changes in the business of medicine. Dr. Tim Beechnau remembers helping his father adapt to health maintenance organizations and their quality measures. More recently, Dr. Nick Beechnau assisted his dad with the transition to electronic health records.

Dr. Nick Beechnau also helps his father balance the demands of private practice by sharing call with him. They switch off every week. Previously, Dr. Tim Beechnau was perpetually on call; he says he’s grateful his son was willing to make that sacrifice.

“There’s certainly a comfort to joining a big staff and being on call every fifth weekend,” he says. “I think Nick could have been drawn to that, but he sees what we have, and it’s special.”

Dr. Nick Beechnau agrees. What he loves most about small-town private practice, he says, is the people.

“I really enjoy interacting with our patients,” he says. “They teach you in medicine that history is 90% of the diagnosis. The easiest way to get a good history is to already know the patient.”

    11 comments

    1. Could not love this story enough! I had the pleasure of being treated by two generations of Beechnau’s and I would be honored to call the third generation my Doctor!!!

    2. Glad to be a part of Ravenna Family Practice!! I had Dr. Lou as my family doctor growing up and even worked for Dr. Lou and Dr. Tim for a few years!! Great Doctors, Boss’s and just all around great people!! I have known Doctor Nick since he was born and he has the same nice caring personality as his Grandfather and Father!!!

    3. My favorite doctor and office team. Love their customer service and knowledge. So happy that Nick has joined. I can’t say enough nice things.

    4. Dr Tim graciously accepted our family into their already full patient load 25 years ago. We arrived with 3 kids, then added 3 more -just to really keep him on his toes! He has so kindly and compassionately cared for our brood through several significant health issues. I HATE having to call him after hours, but the few times I’ve had to, he has never failed to return my call within a short time. And always sounding like he was just sitting around with nothing better to do, anyway! Lol (and I know that’s not true!). In fact, I was just bragging to family members today about our Ravenna Family Practice. We are so blessed, and excited to know another generation has joined to continue caring for our little community!

    5. I was just telling my husband the other day that I may just have to go back to Ravenna for any Doctor needs. We moved away 4 years ago so I have tried a few other offices but none give me that warm and fuzzy, hometown, Mayberry feel like I used to have there. Not to mention when I was a kid I dreamed that I would grow up to work there.

    6. Wonderful story of a wonderful family!!
      I loved raising my family in Ravenna and it’s tremendous that Tim and Nick are there. They make Ravenna even more special.

    7. One of the things I miss most from Muskegon is Dr. Tim. I was a pt of Dr. Lou as a child and then Dr. Tim. What a wonderful legacy to give to your children. Thank you Dr. Tim for being such as awesome person.

    8. I worked with Dr.Lou at MGH before Dr. Tim came on board. I have never before or since seen or experienced such understanding when working with physicians, especially if they ran into a complicated case. The patient was first, the nurse second and the humility of the family placed them last in the chain of command taking care of the patient. They were not above listening to the nurse and even accepting suggestions from the nurse. Working with this most humble family was truly a privilege and a joy. God bless them all.

    9. I am proud to say the baby that Dr Nick was referring to in the article is my granddaughter Charlotte (Charlie), I was delivered by Dr Lou, my daughter was delivered by Dr Tim. There are no words to describe Dr Tim. His kindness and compassion are beyond reproach. He has held my hand through so much, good times and bad. My family has been truly blessed to have him in our lives and care for us. We look forward to having Dr Nick share in the care of our family. Thank You for all you do and have done.

    10. Dr Tim saved my son’s life back in 1984. My son Roger was not keeping and formula down….Tim sent us to the hospital where he’d already said his lungs sounded awful. He was flown to GR the next morning after he’d stopped breathing at General. He had pneumonia at 3 months old. After almost a month in GR not only could he come home, he was off his heart monitor! Roger will be 32 in Feb. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    11. Congratultions
      I have always enjoyed working with Lou and Tim. I would expect Nick to continue the proud tradition.
      Keep maintaining your independence.

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