By Gina Ramsey
In his khaki cargo shorts and faded Joe Jost’s tee shirt, Dr. Selden C. Beebe looks the part of a retired Long Beach resident, enjoying a socially distanced chat on his shaded front porch. After five decades of practicing pediatrics, Dr. Beebe, affectionately known as Long Beach’s Kid’s Doctor, retired in February 2021 and is focused on spending as much time with family as possible in the city he loves.
Since beginning his pediatrics practice in Long Beach in 1968, the 86-year-old doctor has seen approximately over 300,000 patients.
“Part of the success I had was being able to form relationships both with the parents and the children. I’ve had multiple generations of families come back to me and that is the biggest compliment of all,” he said.
Asked about memorable patients or cases he was proud of, Dr. Beebe modestly said, “I’ve built many amazing relationships over the years with so many wonderful people, it’s hard to narrow it down; [it’s] just the honor and privilege of taking care of so many children and families.”
He recalled seeing children of a handful of athletes and Hollywood actors, such as basketball star Ann Meyers Drysdale and actress Vicki Lawrence.
After grabbing some coffee, a typical work day for him included seeing anywhere from 15-30 patients. On Fridays Dr. Beebe did pediatric grand rounds at Long Beach Memorial, which included inpatient care and presentations on medical issues and treatments to other medical personnel. However, for years he had an early Wednesday morning routine with his grandchildren he faithfully observed.
“For a long time when I was working and before the pandemic, I’d get to Aroma di Roma down on 2nd Street, pull together a few tables and just let the family know we’d be there before work and whoever could show up, great,” he said. It became a type of weekly tradition, as many of his extended family live throughout Long Beach and would make the early morning gathering.
Dr. Beebe’s Long Beach roots run deep, spanning generations. His father, also a doctor, was a central figure in the city’s medical history and practiced with The Harriman Jones Clinic and Hospital, one of Long Beach’s original affordable health care groups (now the site of the Rite Aid in Alamitos Beach), after the family moved to the area. The elder Beebe was the role model Selden aspired to be like the most.
“My father was a remarkable person,” Dr. Beebe said. “He truly embodied a sense of caring.” The two practiced together in the 1960’s and it was what he learned from his father as a colleague but also as a son that guided his decision to focus in pediatrics. “He [my father] had such a warm, smooth way with patients, and with me. We had a comfortable relationship and weren’t afraid to handle issues. One of the most important lessons I learned from him is to listen; really listen and focus on the patient.”
Treating each patient as a special individual, his ability to listen and his availability to patients are characteristics Dr.Beebe considers as some of his biggest strengths.
His medical expertise and influence also led to other career accomplishments, such as serving on multiple medical boards and committees and, “Watching the creation of Miller Children’s Hospital and improving the general health of the children of Long Beach.”
Whether there was any occasion where he caught something irregular in a patient that was potentially life-altering, Dr. Beebe said he had a handful of cases where he diagnosed something that was misdiagnosed that helped the patient “get on the right track.”
Prioritizing family relationships and hard work have been the common thread in Dr. Beebe’s life. Growing up he and his brother witnessed their father heading off to work after long days at Stanford Medical School, while his mother ran the home. Not only was Dr. Beebe inspired by his father’s amazing work ethic and dedication to medicine, but his brother as well, becoming a dentist, one of several Beebe doctors in the family who practiced in Long Beach. Veritably, the Beebe name has become part of the medical history in Long Beach, a fact that could segue nicely into Dr. Beebe’s next possible adventure.
“Several other doctors who have been in the city for a long time - like me - have talked about maybe writing down the medical history of Long Beach starting from the 1940’s. We’ll see,” he shrugs. As for now, Dr. Beebe remains focused on spending more time with his family and wife Sheri of 62 years, who he takes care of full-time.
“[The pandemic] really forced us to just focus on the day-to-day, and realize how blessed I am with family.” Having family nearby is something Dr. Beebe wholeheartedly appreciates. His son is a special education teacher at Hughes Middle School and, his daughter is a pediatrics nurse at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital, among other familial Long Beach connections.
The importance of family support is a lesson inherited from his father’s upbringing, and one that Dr. Beebe strives to continue. “He taught me that what you can do for others is an important legacy.”