By GERRY POSNER You might say there is a gene for it. How else to explain the serious and significant involvement of the Becker family in the field of medicine and its subsidiaries?
The family did one better than that, as it is said in baseball, hitting for the cycle, as they went five for five, almost like a perfect score in bowling. Just who are these Beckers that have made their mark in the world of health?
The big Papa is none other than the King of Asthma, Dr. Allan Becker. The little Mama was a very active rehabilitation therapist in Winnipeg for many years. Originally a Shragge from Edmonton, Lynne studied physiotherapy in Winnipeg, and later worked at the Rehab and the Misericordia Hospitals. When the family moved to Dauphin later, she worked at the hospital there. And when the family finally settled back in Winnipeg, she worked for many years at the Victoria Hospital until her retirement in 2004.
The children, Pam, Marissa, and Lev, are part of this medical family. Pam fell easily into Occupational Therapy and presently works at the Rehab Centre for Children. She has worked in this field in Manitoba consulting with families, daycares and schools. In addition, she has another gig - a private position with the Government of Nunavit in the Qikiqtani Schools in Baffin Island. Now, that is taking OT to the north in a big time way. She obviously has the credentials, as she received a Bachelors degree in Medical Rehabilitation in 1999 and a Masters in Occupational Therapy in 2010.
Her sister, Dr. Marissa Becker, also travels long distances in her work, just a little further. Marisa is an Associate Professor in the Centre for Global Health at the University of Manitoba in the Department of Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Community Health Services. You would need a few degrees just to remember all those names. Moreover, she is the Associate Director of the Manitoba HIV Programme. Probably her most well known area of work is with infectious diseases, as she currently works as an Infectious Disease and HIV physician and researcher with the University of Manitoba. Her research takes place in Manitoba, also in Kenya, India and Ukraine. - not quite as cold as her sister Pam’s experiences in Nunavit,
In Manitoba, Marissa’s focus is to understand the health care needs, patterns and outcomes of HIV patients. The global health objective is to determine early HIV risk among sex workers and vulnerable young women. For this research, Marissa was awarded a Canadian Institute for Health Research New Investigator grant. Also, Marissa acts as the co-Scientific Director of the National collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases at the University of Manitoba. Those are a lot of hats to wear, but the Beckers seems to have an easy head to fit.
The youngest in the family, Dr. Lev Becker, graduated from the University of Manitoba Medical School in 2003. He did rural family residency in Squamish, BC until 2005, then settled in Squamish. For the next seven years, Lev worked both in northern Manitoba and B.C. and was active in emergency and family medicine in both locations. Since 2012, Lev has worked solely in the ER in Whistler and Squamish. When he is not attending to patients, he has managed to improve his skiing skills, aside from a host of other activities that keep him busy.
And then there is the dad, Allan Becker, a Regina native, and the go to guy for pediatric allergy issues. A graduate of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, Allan practiced Family Medicine in Dauphin, Manitoba from 1970 to 1980. He then returned to the University of Manitoba from 1980 to 1983 for training in Pediatrics and from 1983-85 in Allergy & Clinical Immunology at the Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco and the University of Manitoba.
He and Lynne made a conscious decision to return to Manitoba to live and work and, since that time, Allan has become a professor in the Section of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, Department of Pediatrics at the University of Manitoba, as well a consultant allergist at the Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg.
Titles he has by the bushel load, books and articles - too many to even mention. What he would say, if asked about himself, is that he is primarily interested in the interrelationship of allergy, asthma and the environment. In fact, he is the co-principle investigator of “ A Multi- Centre study on the Efficacy of an Intervention Programme to Prevent the Development of Asthma in High- Risk Infants.” You could get sick just from reading the title to that study, but Allan Becker is not one to be deterred.
So, how is that one family could produce so much medical talent? To have three doctors and two rehab therapists in one family speaks volumes about the commitment of this family to improve the health of the people around them. I suggest it takes more than just a gene for medicine, but a passion to help others. That feeling is not inherited, but learned from observation. Lynne and Allan Becker laid the foundation for their children to pursue similar careers.
Pam says, “ I feel like I grew up in and around hospitals and definitely saw myself working there.” She does add, however, that now that she had had exposure to community settings, she would not return to hospitals.
Lev states categorically that his family was his biggest influence in his decision to go into Medicine. With everyone else in the family immersed in some fashion in the health care area and, as a result of sage advice from his parents, Lev was almost a certainty to be a doctor. The only question was what kind of doctor he would be.
The beneficiaries of the Becker family contributions to the world of medicine have been the residents of the province of Manitoba and well beyond. It could be said that if there were an award from the Government of Canada for services by one family to a country, the Beckers would be beckoned immediately.