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By ANNETTE HARVISON
For the past 40 years, a doctor in Perry County has been keeping his patients healthy and thriving, to the best of his ability. Over that period, his approach to healthcare has made an impact in the area, as he continues to stay busy with patients and has no plans of hanging up his stethoscope any time soon.
Dr. John Beaman began his private practice in Richton in 1983. He wasn’t from the area, but his in-laws lived in Richton and had told him the two town doctors were both close to retirement. He was at a point in life when it was time to do something new, and the door to that opportunity opened. He and his wife packed their belongings and made their way to Richton. Beaman met the two town doctors and said that one was nice to him and the other told him he wouldn’t last three months. And now, four decades later, Beaman’s practice is still going strong.
Dr. Beaman says “the rest is history,” but, where he came from and how he made his way to this rural Mississippi community is quite interesting.
Born and raised on a cattle ranch in Missouri, Beaman was interested in electronics and originally studied electrical engineering. When that didn’t work out like as planned, he changed his major to aerospace engineering, earning a degree in that field. For a time while in engineering school, Beaman also worked as a disc jockey at a rock and roll radio station, which was a cool gig for a young man.
“I thought I wanted to be an electrical engineer,” Beaman said. “I liked electrical things, but I wasn’t good in math.”
“My parents couldn’t afford a color TV, so I built them one.”
Beaman signed up for the ROTC program while in engineering school, knowing that if he got drafted for the war, he would go in as an officer, and in the meantime, military service would help pay for college. Eventually, Beaman did serve his country in war in Vietnam. It was during his time in the Army that Beaman became a licensed pilot, which he said was possible because the Army would pay for him to get a commercial pilot’s license as long as he committed to fly for the Army during his service.
“I got a pilot and instructor’s license,” Beaman said. “I flew as a pilot in college and thought the Army would put me on a fixed wing plane. They put me in helicopter school instead.”
“I was a scout pilot. More often, the enemy found me. I got shot seven times. Then I got transferred to Med-evac and picked up injured soldiers.”
After 18 months in Vietnam, Beaman returned to the states, where he was stationed in Ft. Rucker, Ala. as a flight instructor. While stationed at Ft. Rucker, he met his wife, Sandra. He said he got out of the Army at that time because there weren’t many prospects for a helicopter pilot, and he knew he had to find prospects somewhere. It was then he thought back to his desire to be a doctor, so he said he threw caution to the wind and went into pre-med. When he was accepted to medical school, he knew he had to do something because he had no money to pay for it. Beaman said he also had to return to his home state of Missouri to ask for an exemption to enter medical school due to his age, as no other colleges would accept him.
“I signed up with the Navy for four years to pay for it (medical school),” Beaman said. “It worked out fine. I did my family practice training in the Navy. I took care of pilots. I was the ship doctor, but it was a job I hated.”
“When I got out of the Navy, I didn’t know where to go. Sandra’s parents lived in Richton.”
Beaman said he has loved every minute of his time in Richton and serving patients in the area. Thankfully, he said, his practice has been fairly routine in all his years. His office has a lab and an x-ray machine, and at one time, he performed flight physicals for airline pilots. He says he has an excellent staff that has been with him for years, and he praises their work for keeping the clinic running smoothly. Beaman said he doesn’t admit patients to the hospital, though he is part of the courtesy staff at several area hospitals.
“I delivered one baby in the clinic,” Beaman said. “She hadn’t told anyone she was pregnant.”
Of his current staff members, Sherri Carnahan has been by his side the longest – over 36 years.
“I jokingly tell people she’s still on probation,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of turnover here.”
Beaman credits his success to remaining independent. And, while he doesn’t admit patients to hospitals, he is part of the courtesy staff at several in the area.
“I have always been independent, ruggedly independent,” Beaman said. “Most doctors are in groups these days, and I refuse to add my patients’ information into a database.”
“I delivered one baby in the clinic. She hadn’t told anyone she was pregnant.”
One of Beaman’s many local patients, a Greene County resident, recently wrote to the newspaper to express gratitude for the medical care and service he and others have received from Beaman for all these years. Leakesville resident Jim Hillman said he is glad Beaman found his way to this rural part of south Mississippi all those years ago, and all the letters he has received from Beaman is a testament to the longtime physician’s standard of care.
“Dr. Beaman, I want to thank you for those 40 years,” Hillman said. “Thank you for coming to Richton, MS. You are a great warrior against disease and have relieved much pain and suffering.”
“Thank you also for your service time and all those med-evac flights you made in Vietnam. You are greatly appreciated and loved by all your patients, both here and there. God Bless You.”
So, not only is John Beaman a local doctor, but he’s also a rocket scientist, DJ, pilot and veteran. He’s been a prolific writer throughout his medical career, as well, having written columns for the Hattiesburg American for 25 years and The Richton Dispatch and Greene County Herald in the years following. He continues his column to this day and his most recent work is available elsewhere in this edition.