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Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

A Nanaimo doctor was presented with a Royal Life Saving Society award by the Queen herself.

Dr. Steve Beerman, the 2020 recipient of the King Edward VII Cup recognizing outstanding contribution to life-saving, was honoured with a virtual awards ceremony earlier this week.

Queen Elizabeth II asked Beerman a little bit about drowning prevention and he told her that there are an estimated 235,000 drowning deaths worldwide each year.

“It’s a very compelling and challenging issue, but it does have significant, inexpensive … interventions which we are trying to share as widely as possible,” he said.

The Queen said it was “very nice to hear about” the “very important” work.

Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the RLSS, said Beerman was being honoured for “outstanding national and international leadership in the drowning prevention field for more than four decades.”

Beerman, a former lifeguard, said life-saving is one of his passions. His work includes serving as principal investigator of the Bangladesh Anchal and SwimSafe child drowning prevention research study. He has also served as an advisor to the World Health Organization’s global report on drowning and for the United Nations. He said a UN resolution on drowning prevention, providing guidance to 194 countries, is “one of the many sentinel events that I’ve been working towards for a long time.”

Beerman retired from Anchor Family Medicine centre in March and was also recently awarded the Dr. David M. Bachop Gold Medal for Distinguished Medical Service from Doctors of B.C., for his contributions to organized medicine and community service.

Beerman helped to establish the UBC family practice residency program in Nanaimo, which serves as an apprenticeship for new doctors. A family doctor in Nanaimo for 34 years, Beerman said he helped set up the residency program “from scratch” in 2007. The Nanaimo site was established as the community was struggling to recruit and maintain family physicians. The program helps to place 16 resident doctors in Nanaimo for two years, with eight graduating each year.

“These are people who have finished medical school and they’re doing two years of family practice training in Nanaimo, and then they get licensed to be family physicians … there’s exams they have to write during that period of time and they have experiential learning opportunities, nearly exclusively based in Nanaimo,” said Beerman. “They work both in the hospital and the community setting and about 50 per cent of them end up staying here.”

There is a lack of family doctors in Nanaimo despite the residency program, and Beerman said the issue is complex. There isn’t actually a lack of family doctors, but a lack of family doctors “doing full-spectrum, community-based, family medicine,” he said.

Better collaboration between government funding mechanisms and community need is what is required to remedy the situation, he suggested.

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Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Dr. Steve Beerman, of Nanaimo, shows off his Dr. David Bishop Gold Medal, awarded for distinguished medical service. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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