Family Legacy: Beckers Share Love of Medicine
By Catherine Duncan
Richard A. Becker, M.D., FACP, Class of 1971, never tried to encourage his son, Joseph, to go into medicine.
“It is so hard. Medicine is something you have to want to do. I wasn’t going to sell it to him,” said Dr. Richard, a San Antonio endocrinologist and the 2000 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year for the Long School of Medicine. However, while at the University of Chicago, Joseph received an award for the best original research by an undergraduate.
“Because of the success of Joe’s research project, I decided to ask Alexander Pierce, M.D., a now retired San Antonio pediatrician, if Joe could shadow him for a few weeks during the summer. After that experience, Joe decided he wanted to be a doctor,” Dr. Richard said.
Joseph R. Becker, M.D., said he remembers spending a month with Dr. Pierce at Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital. “I loved science, but I also learned I loved taking care of patients.” He earned an honors bachelor’s degree in chemistry before choosing to follow his father’s footsteps and attend the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. “I wanted to come back to Texas. I also wanted to return and be a part of something my father had been a part of,” he explained.
After earning his medical degree here in 2005, Dr. Joseph did a residency in internal medicine at Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut. He went on to complete a fellowship in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of California San Francisco. At that time, he was awarded a one-year Wilsey Advanced Fellowship in Diabetes. Following his training, he returned to UT Health where he served as a clinical assistant professor and associate fellowship director in the Division of Endocrinology.
Five years ago, Dr. Joseph joined his father in private practice at Endocrinology Nuclear Medicine Associates in San Antonio. Both specialize in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism.
A new family member
In addition to receiving a strong foundation in basic science and clinical training at the medical school, Dr. Joseph said another reason he is fortunate to have come to the Long School of Medicine is because it is where he met his wife, Emily Kaufmann Becker, M.D., also Class of 2005.
“We actually met on the first day of medical school. We were walking from the apartment to the lecture hall. He said he tried to talk to me, and I didn’t show much interest. I don’t remember that; I was worried about getting to class,” Dr. Emily recalled. “During our third year, we were on the same obstetrics rotation so we spent long shifts together and got to know each other. In our fourth year, we both went to Corpus Christi, where I grew up, to do a family medicine rotation. I was able to show him around my hometown.”
After graduating, Dr. Emily did her residency training in pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, New York. She returned to UT Health to do a dermatology residency. She completed a psoriasis research fellowship at UCSF before once again returning to San Antonio for a pediatric dermatology fellowship at UT Health.
In 2008, after completing their initial residencies, they married. Now, 10 years later, they have three young children who were all born at the same hospital where they did that obstetrics rotation. “We had doctors who once taught us who later were our doctors and cared for us while we delivered our children. It goes full circle.”
Dr. Emily, an assistant professor/clinical, sees pediatric and adult dermatology patients at UT Health Hill Country in Boerne. “I really enjoy working with medical students and residents while caring for patients. My husband and I are really in it for the patients. We enjoy what we are doing. We are very fortunate,” she said.
Dr. Emily said she is thrilled her brother, Christopher Kaufmann, also attended medical school at UT Health and earned his degree in 2013. He is now doing a seven-year otolaryngology residency/Ph.D. program at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.
Dr. Richard said he loves the medical school and is honored that his son and daughter-in-law are both graduates. “I had a wonderful experience there,” he said. After graduating here, Dr. Richard did his residency in medicine at Boston City Hospital. “Boston was a great place to train, and I was the best prepared intern.
There were 18 interns from across the country. That says a lot about our school.”
He went on to complete fellowships in endocrinology and metabolism at Yale University Medical School and at UT Health San Antonio. The fellowship in San Antonio allowed him to treat and study burn victims and critically injured patients. He also did post-doctoral training in nuclear medicine and radioisotope techniques at the National Naval Medical Center.
Another shared interest
While Dr. Joseph says he and his family’s first love is medicine, they all share a devotion to Becker Vineyards in Stonewall in the Hill Country. Dr. Richard and his wife, Bunny, bought the land in 1989 and family and friends helped them do the first planting in 1992. The family goes to the vineyard once a week to meet and make decisions.
“I look forward to going to the vineyard every weekend,” Dr. Joseph said. “My parents bought it when I was in seventh grade. I always knew I wanted to be a part of the family wine business. When I was younger, we were planting, and it was a lot of hard labor,” he said. “We are blessed that we all share a love of medicine and the vineyard. I get to spend time doing what I love with my family.”