Hallie Beacham, M.D., practiced as an OB-GYN in San Francisco for 30 years before she and her husband, Paul Downey, relocated to Healdsburg. As a physician and a founding member of the California Endowment, Hallie began talking with doctors in her new north county environment about the local healthcare landscape and was soon asked to join the board of the earliest incarnation of the Healthcare Foundation, which formed in 2001 to save the Healdsburg Hospital. Hallie was the Foundation’s president by the time it launched an ultimately successful $14 million campaign on the hospital’s behalf. From there, she helped to steer the organization toward an expanded mission to address the vital health needs of the community at large. Although she stepped down from a leadership role several years ago, Hallie and Paul remain staunch supporters of the Healthcare Foundation. We spoke with her recently about the work she helped set in motion and the place she calls home.
How did the vision for the Healthcare Foundation evolve after the campaign to save the hospital?
That campaign was winding down, and my association with the California Endowment allowed me to see what you could do with an expanded vision beyond just being involved with the hospital. That background I brought introduced a vision that the Healthcare Foundation began adopting. A big challenge was making the public aware that the Foundation was now much more than, if you will, an appendage of the hospital. Over the past seven years or more, that has occurred. It’s really been due to a lot of hard work by the various boards and executive directors. Today, they have the opportunity to identify healthcare issues that need addressing, and they’re doing it. That’s one of the reasons my husband and I have been such outgoing supporters. I’m very excited about where they are right now.
How do you see the role it’s playing in the local healthcare ecosystem?
One of the things it’s doing is acting to generate funds and education—you really have to educate members of the community who have the wherewithal to provide funds for a vision. It takes a lot of work and knowledge on the part of the Healthcare Foundation to decide on a vision and then to develop the relationships in the community.
What is a health issue you see as most salient or urgent right now?
The loss of the protections with Roe v Wade. Making sure that women don’t lose access to abortion services is a number one issue that I see right now. It’s not as much an issue in California, but relationships can be developed for groups that will be reaching out to help women no matter where they live.
What drew you and your husband to northern Sonoma County?
Just the beauty of the region, the lifestyle. While I was practicing medicine, my husband was even raising grapes for a while! It’s the quiet that you experience being in a setting like Healdsburg. We’ve been here for so long it’s hard to go back and think of all that attracted us here, but that’s it in a nutshell.