A country practice

Peter BeaumontAs unlikely as it seems, there is a distinct possibility that Peter Beaumont was born to be a pharmacist. His father was a country doctor who shared a practice with his sister in the Victorian town of Myrtleford until 1950, his two aunts were pharmacists, another two were nursing sisters and an uncle was a veterinarian.

What choice did he have?

"To be honest, my father wanted me to be a doctor, but I saw how hard he worked. Back then, doctors did everything, from gall bladder operations to delivering babies - my father delivered me", adds Mr Beaumont.

So like his forebears, Mr Beaumont started a career in pharmacy in Daylesford which spanned five decades. Now a contented, but very busy retiree living in Hawthorn, Mr Beaumont was inspired to establish a new scholarship when he read about a similar act of generosity by fellow pharmacy alumnus Michael Halprin.

The Peter Beaumont Scholarship will provide encouragement and support for students whose location and financial situation may hinder their path to university. Introduced this year, the $5000 scholarship will be awarded to a commencing Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours) student living at least 50 km outside Melbourne, and on assessment of financial need.

Mr Beaumont knows what it is like to be a country kid with big dreams. In the early 50s, he was living in Daylesford where he completed the first two years of his four year Pharmacy Degree by correspondence. By 1954 he was working for local pharmacist Tom Lane, juggling a 40 hour week, studying, and playing football with Daylesford for the Ballarat League. The football, sadly, had to be sacrificed to make time for studies.

Tom Lane would go on to become a friend and mentor, providing the young chemist with life changing advice. "He taught me the essence of success; that I could dare to be different, to think outside the square and to adapt to change quickly. It was Charles Darwin who said 'It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to survive'."

Not only did Mr Beaumont survive, he flourished, graduating from the Victorian College of Pharmacy in 1957 and going on to establish two pharmacies in Shepparton, and acquiring others in Aspendale and Seaford, until his retirement in 1994. During his time in Shepparton, Mr Beaumont became interested in harness racing (in 1999 he was appointed as Advisor to the Racing Appeals Tribunal) and established Morley Park Horse Stud on the banks of the Goulburn River.

Here he imported stallions from the United States and in 1975 Mr Beaumont watched one of his horses win at the famous Hollywood Park in California and in 2003, a favourite filly charged home at Moonee Valley.

Returning to the topic of his long career, Mr Beaumont says, "I suppose you could say we were the old fashioned pharmacists. We made all our own ointments, grinded all the powders. We even made our own suppositories. During my final year of study, my tutor checked my work and said, 'Peter, you make the most beautiful suppositories'.  He predicted they would become the thing of the future, but they didn't become quite as popular as he imagined. You certainly can't use one to cure a cough on a tram."

Mr Beaumont thinks today's pharmacy students face different challenges.

"I think it's difficult for young pharmacists – it’s big business these days and you're more likely to become an employee rather than an employer. But students certainly have a lot more knowledge and their training is first class, thanks to institutions such as Monash University."

For Mr Beaumont, establishing the scholarships very personal. "I've had a successful career and I wanted to give back. In part, it is a way of saying thank you to Tom Lane, all the lecturers, and the entire profession. I won a Commonwealth Scholarship in 1953 and if my family had not been in the financial position to pay for my education, well, it would never have happened."

And his advice for students embarking on a career as a pharmacist? "The harder you work the more successful you'll be, but don't get distracted by periphery things ... like football."

Published in Thanks Magazine, May 2016