Donald Ward Beaven, or Don, was born in Christchurch New Zealand. He was the son of Malcolm Ward Beaven, an engineer, and Ethel Ruthven (nee Greig). He died in a house fire at his Little Akaloa (Banks Peninsula) property. In 1956, Don married Teresa Josephine (nee Fahey), a violinist, and they had two daughters, Sarah and Lisa. Both have graduated MA, PhD and live in Australia. His second marriage was to Gillian Mary (nee Hobbs) in 1993. Two of Don’s uncles, Anthony Beaven and Douglas Saunders, were Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons. And a cousin, Richard Reed, was Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia.
Don went to Christ’s College, Christchurch New Zealand and then studied medicine at Otago University. He graduated MBChB in 1948 and worked at Christchurch Hospital for a year. Then, he worked as a general practitioner in a rural practice at Karamea on the West Coast for a year and subsequently held other hospital positions in New Zealand.
In 1952, he took up registrar posts in the United Kingdom and received MRCP (Edinburgh) in 1954. He returned to Christchurch in 1955 as clinical tutor for the University of Otago and Senior Resident Physician at Christchurch Hospital.
He spent 1958 and 1959 at Peter Bent Bingham Hospital and Harvard University as a Fulbright Fellow and then as a Lilly International Fellow. Don returned to Christchurch in 1960 as Senior Lecturer in Medicine and established the research and teaching Medical Unit in endocrinology and metabolism.
During 1968 and 1969, he was visiting Professor at Institut de Biochemie Clinique, University of Geneva. In 1971 he was appointed the Foundation Professor of Medicine and head of the academic department at the Christchurch School of Medicine, University of Otago, positions he held until 1989. His hospital positions were Physician in Charge Diabetes Services and Consultant Physician in Internal Medicine. He was made Emeritus Professor in 1990 at his retirement.
During his time as Professor of Medicine, Don served as Chairman for the Internal Medicine Service (1972-78) for the Canterbury Hospital Group and was on the RACP Censors Board from 1968 to 1980. He was a frequent guest lecturer at national and international meetings and was politically active in improving medical education and research in the Asia Pacific region. He was Professor in Residence at various institutions in New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, Singapore, Athens, Zagreb, Madras and London during this time.
He was elected member of the Canterbury Area Health Board (from 1974) and was chair of the Board in 1991. During a period of health reforms, he served as Deputy Commissioner from 1991 until 1994. He was a Foundation Trustee of the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation (from 1960).
Retirement from his position at the Clinical School in 1989 did not slow Don down. He continued for some time to undertake diabetes clinics. He joined the Department of Communication Disorders at Canterbury University in 1989 to assist with curriculum development and to act as liaison officer to the Christchurch School of Medicine. He remained an active member in that Department with an appointment as Adjunct Professor until his death. As Patron of Diabetes Christchurch and Diabetes New Zealand, he was tireless in promoting improved clinical care for people with diabetes at a national level.
As well as his enormous contributions to medicine, and diabetes in particular, he was a wine and food enthusiast. He planted an experimental vineyard in the 1970s which helped establish that grapes could be successfully grown in the Canterbury region. In more recent years he established one of the early olive groves on Banks Peninsula. Other interests included pre-Christian history and literature of wine and medicine, chamber music, New Zealand art and literature.
In his younger days he was an active climber and sailor. Amongst his writings are books on olive growing and their use, wine through the ages, wines for dining, wine care and service. He was a senior wine judge and wrote for Cuisine and Epicurean magazines.
He is survived by his wife, Gillian, and daughters, Sarah and Lisa.
Don received many awards, the most notable being CBE (1989), the RACP College medal for outstanding service (1989), Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2005) and he accepted Knighthood in 2009. A bronze bust of Don is placed near the Christchurch Arts Centre commemorating Canterbury’s ‘Local Heroes'.
His refereed medical publications exceed 250. He undertook one of the first epidemiology studies on the prevalence of diabetes in New Zealand (N Z Med J. 1969;69: 271-5). With colleagues Eric Espiner and Geoff Holland, he conceived an in vivo model to more easily study pancreatic endocrine function (Nature. 1969;223:955). He wrote articles on the organisation of Diabetes care for The Diabetes Annual (Vol 1-4; Elsevier). He continued to write in his retirement on his concerns for diabetes care and obesity in NZ (Aust N Z J Med. 1988;18:297-301; N Z Med J. 2007; 10;1259.)
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