Press-Telegram (Long Beach)
Doctor built many healthy relationships
Wearing Hawaiian shirts and passing out fun stickers to put children at ease, Dr. Selden C. Beebe has been known affectionately as Long Beach’s beloved “Kids’ Doctor” for more than five decades.
It’s been estimated that Beebe has treated more than 300,000 children since he started his pediatrics career in Long Beach in 1968. But, at 86, he figures it’s time to slow down and smell the roses. He officially retired on Valentine’s Day.
“It was an extremely difficult decision and I’m really going to miss the kids, but I just decided it was time to let go and relax more with my family and four grandkids of my own,” he said recently. “I have so
many wonderful memories to enjoy.”
Accolades have been pouring in from families as word got out on his retirement. Parents are calling him “an amazing person,” “super with my child,” “a calming influence” and the “best doctor in the world.” Memories indeed. Besides his private practice, Beebe has been a major figure in the city’s medical circles, serving on the boards of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital, The Children’s Clinic (now TCC Family Health) and Tichenor Orthopedic Clinic for Children. He also was medical adviser to the Long Beach Day Nursery and an advisory board member for the Stramski Child Development Center.
“He is just one of the great doctors in our community,” said Dr. Charles Durnin, an orthopedic surgeon and former medical director at the Tichenor Clinic. “He epitomizes what a pediatrician should be, helping thousands of kids and their families. He and his father and the Beebe family are part of the heritage of our town and are what makes Long Beach a great place.”
Beebe has taken care of multiple generations of families.
“The other day, a grandfather came in with his grandson to see me for treatment,” Beebe said. “I treated the grandfather when he was a little boy. It was great to see them both.”
Beebe, though, is not the first Long Beach doctor in his family. In fact, there are so many in the city’s medical history that it’s hard to keep them straight.
Beebe was born on Sept. 13, 1934, in Porterville. His father, Edson Beebe, was a doctor who eventually moved his family to Long Beach. Edson Beebe had a brother, Selden R. Beebe, who also was a general practitioner. To make it a little more confusing, Selden C. Beebe has a brother, Edson Beebe Jr., who is a dentist.
“We sometimes got confused ourselves,” Selden C. Beebe joked.
Selden C. Beebe grew up in Long Beach, attending Burbank Elementary, Jefferson Middle and Wilson High schools.
He wanted to be a doctor at an early age, he said — like his father.
“I respected and revered him so much,” he said.
But he also loved golf, so has his high school graduation neared, he was torn between playing on tour or attending college.
“My father did a shrewd thing,” Beebe said. “He said, ‘I’ll give you $2,000 to go on the golfing tour or I’ll pay your way to go to Stanford University so you can be a doctor. It’s your choice.’”
He chose Stanford. After graduation from college, Beebe joined the U.S. Army in 1956, serving in the medical corps. When he was discharged, he applied for medical school at six universities on the East Coast.
“I hitchhiked in uniform to Florida and went up the coast, winding up choosing Boston University,” he said. “I just loved Boston.”
He also ended up as senior class president and valedictorian.
While at Stanford, he fell in love with fellow student Sheri Gilbert, whose grandfather was Tim Harriman, a Long Beach City Council member in the 1920s. She also happened to be a patient of Selden’s father.
They eloped to Las Vegas and got married on Aug. 9, 1958. They celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary last summer.
After graduating from Boston University School of Medicine, Selden returned to general practice in Long Beach in 1962, did a pediatric residency at Los Angeles County General Hospital from 1965-67 and started his own pediatric practice in 1968.
By this time, he and his wife had two children, Jason Beebe, now a special education teacher at Hughes Middle School, and Alecia Bennett, a pediatrics nurse at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital. He has four grandchildren — Erica and Shannon Beebe and Jacob and Brandon Bennett.
But why did Beebe choose to be a pediatrician?
“I just loved treating children and wanted to make a specialty of pediatrics,” he said. “It has been so satisfying.”
To put children at ease, Selden decided early on to wear colorful Hawaiian shirts to avoid the “white coat syndrome” that causes blood pressure to rise in many patients. He passed out stickers of characters like Superman and Minnie Mouse.
“I’ve always felt that a sense of humor and laughter can be healing,” he said. “If I can lighten up a child from the get-go, I think it helps. Most children have some kind of anxiety going to a doctor’s office so it’s important to gain their trust by interacting with them in some way.”
He also feels it’s important to listen to what the child and parent both say, and, sometimes, to what they don’t say.
He said his pediatrics practice changed since he started out in 1968.
“Back then we treated a lot of diseases like measles and mumps, but vaccines took care of a lot of that,” he said. “Now, we treat a lot of developmental and behavioral problems along with the usual colds and other ailments.”
When my wife and I moved to Long Beach in 1978 and I started working at the Press-Telegram, we went looking for a pediatrician for our 1-yearold daughter. Beebe was highly recommended. My wife called his office but was told that he couldn’t take on any more patients at that time.
We got another recommendation for Dr. Marvin Zamost, a family practitioner, who we went to and have been seeing for 43 years.
When I mentioned this to Beebe, he said he was disappointed he missed us but was happy we went to Zamost, who he said was an excellent doctor. Beebe noted that his father, Edson Beebe, mentored many young doctors at the Family Practice Program at Memorial, including Zamost, who interned there. The younger Beebe said Zamost spoke at his father’s funeral, telling the mourners that he entered family practice because he wanted to be like Edson Beebe. Small world.
Among the many fans of Dr. Selden C. Beebe, one of the biggest is his 28-yearold granddaughter, Erica Beebe.
“My grandfather is a very modest, progressive, intelligent and kindhearted man who has made such an impact on the community,” she said. “I attended Wilson High and played water polo all around Southern California and, when my last name was mentioned, it was typically followed by the question, ‘Any chance you’re related to the pediatrician, Dr. Beebe?’ I was always proud, and still am, to say that, ‘Yes. He is my grandfather!”