The following is the text for the fundraising brochure for a fellowship in my father’s name at the University of Florida College of Medicine:
My father was born to be a neurologist. One day, researchers may find a base pair that made him predisposed to be in the field the way he inherited his blue eyes and freckles. Something invisible to us drove him to be a good doctor to patients especially those with untreatable or even incurable diseases. He listened to them long and hard: offering what comfort he could; and all the compassion he had. He cried out loud when they died.
I was two when my father was a neurology fellow at the University of Florida. We had just returned from Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, where he worked as a surgeon during the Vietnam War after graduating from Medical School at the University of Virginia. My earliest memories of Beau are from Gainesville. He studied hard, but also played hard. Beau made good use of every swimming hole near the University. He always took me along for the ride, and told me that I was to born swim.
Beau wasn’t afraid of alligators in those rivers and lakes. “I am a Florida Gator!” he laughed. He also suggested that if I raced the alligators then humans would never be able to beat me. He was right—I grew up to become a national champion. Beau’s courage infected me, just as it did his patients. You were in safe hands with Dr. Bercaw. You felt protected even if you were facing a very frightening diagnosis. You had someone larger than life on your side.
The only thing my father feared was that he was born to get Alzheimer’s disease. After watching his own father die in 1971 from what was then a little-known malady, Beau wondered if he’d inherited the gene. As an ever-present reminder of the horror of the AD, Beau kept his father’s brain in a jar on his office desk.
As my father got older, he began experimenting on himself. He took upwards of 72 supplements a day in the hope of staving off Alzheimer’s disease—or maybe even finding a cure. He also shifted his attention to me, who he saw as his genetic twin. For my 35th birthday, Beau sent me the ApoE test. He called me with the results.
“You have what I have. And I have what my father had,” he said as if he’d shot his own daughter on purpose. He hung up the phone crying.
My brilliant father is now in Memory Care in Naples, Florida. He doesn’t remember very much these days, but I can still see the doctor in him. He watches the other residents the same way he used to look at his patients: with love and compassion, and the irrepressible desire to save their lives.
We need more Beau Bercaws in this world. The loss of mine leaves a gaping hole in neurology as well as in my heart. We need young neurologists who were born to race against time and gators.
Donating to the Dr. Beauregard Lee Bercaw Fellowship will preserve my father’s memory by funding the training of next generation of compassionate, fearless, and indefatigable neurologists willing to take up his battle with Alzheimer’s disease.The kind you’d want by your side if the battle against AD becomes your own.
For information or to support the Dr. Beauregard Lee Bercaw Fellowship, contact:
University of Florida
PO Box 100243
Gainesville, FL 32610
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Tax-deductible gift s can be made payable to the “UF Foundation” with “Bercaw Fellowship” on the memo line and mail to the address above.
—Nancy Stearns Bercaw, January 2012