Dr. William T. Beaver, 87

Since his death some weeks ago, at the age of 87, the tributes have been flowing for Dr. William Beaver—better known to older residents of Waterford as plain “Bill.”

The coronavirus’ reach spares no-one, not even its medical professionals. 

A man of towering accomplishments in the medical and pharmacological fields, Bill Beaver wore those feats lightly. His professional service includes numerous consultancies and membership on various panels, committees and advisory boards, and testimony before Congress on issues of drug approval through the FDA, and on narcotic dependence and abuse. Throughout his medical career he received many citations and awards for his work.

He is renowned for his work developing methodologies for performing clinical studies to test the efficacy of analgesic drugs in humans. Bill wrote the FDA’s research guidelines for such testing and approval.

Sometimes referred to jokingly by his friends in Waterford as “the pain man,” it was Bill Beaver who established the scientific basis for the use of narcotics and NSAIDS in the treatment of acute post-surgical pain, along with chronic pain in cancer patients. For the average patient, advances in easing pain after surgery was a huge benefit.

It was Bill Beaver who did much of the original research in common use today for classes of drugs for pain control, including studies of combination analgesics, including codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone with aspirin, and acetaminophen, and the use of analgesic adjuvants such as caffeine. He also chaired the committee reviewing the medical uses of marijuana. 

He also was a dedicated lecturer, at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, where he taught medical, nursing school and dental students in pharmacology, pharmacodynamics and analgesics. He also mentored PhD candidates in pharmacology. He was professor emeritus at Georgetown from 1997 until his death.

And in the words of one colleague who knew him well, “Bill probably does not get enough credit for shaping the FDA’s understanding of trial designs and data,” adding, “he was way ahead of where the rest of us were.”

Bill and Nancy arrived in Waterford in the late 1960s. It was there just outside the village that they built their home 52 years ago, going on to raise three children—Diane, Hilary and Roderick—the latter two going on to become physicians themselves.

The Beavers’ home on 48 secluded acres, allowed their children to grow up in a bucolic and happy atmosphere—surrounded by fields, woods, cattle and horses, and attending the small Waterford Elementary School. 

Bill spent his time clearing the land, building necessary outbuildings, and planting trees. Nancy, who was his life’s partner in so many ways, had gained her master’s degree in clinical psychology at Catholic University, and also worked as a mental health/substance abuse therapist.

Neighbors knew Bill as a friendly, gregarious man—with many interests, including touring Civil War sites. He loved a good party, although he was renowned for a propensity to fall asleep at them—it was not uncommon to find Bill comfortably settled in an armchair, fast asleep. 

Over the years, the Beavers became an integral part of Waterford, and it was Bill and his close friend Mark Beach, who began the annual fireworks show in the field below the latter’s house. In those early years, Bill would set off a dazzling round of pyrotechnics to light up the sky—home-made fireworks of his own composition. 

Other interests included woodworking, making bookshelves, tables, couches and bed stands. He built his own vacuum tube stereo system. He loved tending his gardens and orchards. A strong family man, he enjoyed his relationships with his children and his grandchildren.

The Beavers traveled extensively—in part because of the numerous scientific meetings and lectures Bill attended. A friend still remembers hearing of the time in Italy when the Beavers, after one medical dinner, full of good Italian hospitality, got lost on the way back to their hotel and found themselves instead bumping along on a railway track—which they hurriedly got off as soon as possible.

He is survived by his wife Nancy Powell Beaver, and his three children: Diane Poirier, Hilary Beaver, MD, and Roderick Beaver, MD, and six grandchildren.

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