Edward John Beckenham
Otolaryngologist Head and Neck Surgeon
13 September 1939 - 15 March 2013
Ted obtained the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) in Edinburgh in General Surgery in 1966, and the Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) in Otolaryngology in 1969.
Ted was one of only a handful of ENT surgeons around Australian with a purely paediatric ENT practice.
He commenced at Ryde Hospital in 1970 next to where he set up his practice, and in 1971 he started at Sydney Hospital and The Children's Hospital.
At the Children's Hospital Ted held the positions of secretary and then Head of Department, where he navigated the ENT department in its new setting at Westmead.
Ted instigated the Paediatric Otolaryngology Fellowship Position, created the Aboriginal Outreach Clinics and encouraged multidisciplinary approaches for Voice, Cleft Palate and Deafness.
He was a founding member of ASPORL, the Australasian Society of Paediatric ORL, which commenced as a study group in 1985 and became a society in 1996. This group reflected his ethos of collegial, informal, honest sharing of knowledge and ideas for the betterment of patients.
Ted was greatly liked and appreciated by colleagues throughout the hospital, working collaboratively with so many departments, doctors, audiologists, speech therapists and nurses.
As a surgeon, Ted had a beautiful delicate skill, was innovative and always looking at how to do things better.
He was a great otologist and laryngologist and embraced the advent of endoscopic rhinology. His surgical achievements were considerable.
Ted introduced the transnasal FESS approach to paediatric periorbital abscess drainage (avoiding a scar on the face); he used a non-stenting approach for choanal atresia; he searched for perilymphatic fistulas in sudden sensorineural hearing loss and was instrumental in setting up paediatric cochlear implantation at the Children's Hospital.
Ted was always calm in all situations: from a difficult airway case, pulling out foreign bodies as their oxygen dropped, to tiny children with periorbital abscess threatening blindness.
It was often late at night, the tissues inflamed and bleeding and Ted would carefully identify the landmarks down the telescope in the swollen mess, dissect gently the landmarks, and release the pus from around the eye, saving the child's sight.
Ted was a people person. He was interested in others, whether it was the student who popped into theatre for an hour between lectures or his registrars, colleagues or patients. He took great interest in the lives of all his registrars, caring about us and seeing the whole person in each of us.
Ted will be remembered for his gift for teaching. He has trained most of the ENT surgeons in Sydney. He calmly taught and encouraged our skills, never tired in sharing his extensive wealth of Paediatric ENT knowledge and epitomised a role model of humility, kindness, and compassion.
To his patients he was ever their advocate, walking the extra mile, and often became almost part of the family.
I loved how he would call children "little people", which of course they are. Since his retirement in 2005 he has been greatly missed by his patients and their families.
Ted Beckenham was a wonderful mentor, colleague and friend to so many of us.
Many I have spoken with recently echo the same words; Ted was a wonderful doctor, gentle, genuine and he made a difference in this world.
He will be greatly missed.
Obituary kindly provided by Associate Professor Catherine Birman, FRACS