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.
“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.”