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Hernando neighbors | Dr. Beatrice "Bea" Braun, 87

Hernando Neighbors: Dr. Bea Braun

Dr. Bea Braun was a Maryknoll Sister before living in Korea, marriage and entering medical school. She lives in Spring Hill and has been involved in elder affairs at the national, state and local levels.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Dr. Bea Braun was a Maryknoll Sister before living in Korea, marriage and entering medical school. She lives in Spring Hill and has been involved in elder affairs at the national, state and local levels.

How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?

We've been here in Spring Hill for 19 years. Before that, we lived in Hasting-on-Hudson in New York.

Tell us about your career.

In 1941, I became a Maryknoll Sister at Manhattanville College and graduated in 1944. I received my medical degree from Marquette University in 1949. I did a rotating internship at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City.

At the request of General (Douglas) MacArthur, myself and five other Maryknoll Sisters went to Korea at the beginning of the Korean War. Our goal was to try and save some of the millions of civilians dying in Pusan, where all of South Korea had been pushed by North Korea. I stayed in Korea for 17 years. When I returned, I married Richard "Dick" Braun, a former Jesuit priest and clinical psychologist, with the blessing of Pope Paul VI.

After completing a residency in psychiatry, I ran an innovative program for the seriously and persistently mentally ill at St. Vincent's Psychiatric Hospital in Harrison, N.Y.

In 1989, we retired to Spring Hill. I ran a statewide AARP program called MMAP (or Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program). I was on the first advisory board of the newly created Florida Department of Elder Affairs. Through federal funding, which was applied for by AARP and Bentley Lipscomb, the first director of the Department of Elder Affairs, MMAP became SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders). All of the MMAP volunteers became the first SHINE volunteers.

I was a member of AARP's national board of directors for eight years. I also served as a board member of MedPAC (the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission), a group commissioned by Congress to advise it on Medicare policy.

What kinds of activities are you involved in now?

After eight years of activities in Washington, D.C., I rejoined SHINE as a volunteer, and became Hernando County's local SHINE coordinator.

As the number of Medicare health plans (HMOs, PPOs and the entire alphabet soup) offered in Hernando grew in complexity and number (there are now 44 managed care plans and 58 stand-alone prescription drug plans), so did the need for assisting seniors with choices and appeals. Added to this were great changes for Medicaid recipients. Personally, I often find myself spending 50 hours a week counseling.

Fortunately, I'm joined by 10 wonderful, dedicated and trained SHINE volunteer counselors who give many hours of their time providing free information and unbiased advice to seniors about Medicare and other health insurance and prescription assistance programs. The volunteers are constantly updated by the state Department of Elder Affairs. Since its beginning, the local SHINE program has assisted almost 1,000 Hernando County citizens.

Volunteers are available from 11 a.m. to noon Tuesdays at the Brooksville Enrichment Center, from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesdays at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Spring Hill, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the East Hernando Branch Library in Ridge Manor West, and from 11 a.m. to noon at the Spring Hill Enrichment Center at Oak Hill Hospital. For information, call the Florida Elder Help Line toll-free 1-800-963-5337.

In addition to my SHINE volunteering, I volunteer as a psychiatrist one day a week at the Health Department in Brooksville. I wish I could do more; there is a great shortage of psychiatrists in Hernando County. Fortunately, I am very ably assisted by JoAnn Sanders, a licensed mental health counselor who works full time.

Do you have any special hobbies?

Walking and reading. Fortunately, because of our dog, Trumpet, a standard poodle, and Books on Tape, I'm able to combine both. Twice a day I take him on a 45-minute or hour walk and listen to tapes.

I also "read" via tape when I drive. This is supplemented by pre-sleep evening reading. This type of reading fare is usually mysteries or history.

Additional health policy and medical psychiatric reading fit into the "learning hobby" category, which is usually done in the early morning when my mind is sharper.

Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

As a doctor, I am extremely concerned about all the attention placed on medicines and not the more important subject of preventing illness in the first place.

I believe that eating a sensible diet to control weight and cholesterol, and a medical diagnosis that led to a pacemaker, is what gives me my vigorous health at age 87. In addition to the daily long walks, I do a regimen of floor exercises every morning. This is what I believe has kept me healthy enough to do all the things I do.

Over the last 26 years, my husband and I traveled to all of the lower 48 states and most of Canada in our Winnebago. We visited many of the U.S. and Canadian national parks.

During September and October of 2007, we decided to take our "last hurrah" in our aging Winnebago. So with our dog, we traveled 10,000 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back. We didn't stop at any large cities, instead traveling on back roads, visiting America's small towns and villages. We didn't listen to any television, radio or read newspapers. We revisited some of our favorite parks, walked through lowlands and highlands, and read tons of books.

Our dearest memories are of the "middle America" people we met, and of the gourmet diners we visited after locals suggested a good place to eat.

In a word, we experienced the words of America the Beautiful:

"America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!"

Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at jhayes@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1438.

Hernando Neighbors: Dr. Bea Braun 10/04/08 [Last modified: Saturday, October 4, 2008 1:38pm]
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