Sunday, March 8, 1998
Dr. Rebecca Bechhold
Specializes in straight talk and compassion

BY CINDY KRANZ
The Cincinnati Enquirer

1997 Women of the Year
Dr. Rebecca Bechhold, medical director of Hospice of Cincinnati, meets with hospice client Sara Meisel Comins, 89.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |

Dr. Rebecca Bechhold has enough heart and soul to care for terminally ill patients and then take her 9-year-old daughter, Claire, to gymnastics at the end of the day.

It's her strong will to balance family and career that allows her to do it all. And the 44-year-old cancer specialist and medical director of Hospice of Cincinnati does it all with verve.

"My biggest attribute is I'm extremely organized and time efficient," said Dr. Bechhold, a wife and mother of two daughters. "It's the key to getting a lot done.

"You have to have priorities. Sometimes, you have to give up some things for your family. I've limited the size of my practice so I can be home with my family, and I will always do that."

Dr. Bechhold has served virtually every Tristate organization related to cancer since 1983, from the Breast Health Task Force to the Wellness Community. She's also raised cancer awareness nationally, appearing on the syndicated television shows of Sally Jesse Raphael and Maury Povich.

She has been medical director of Hospice of Cincinnati since 1988. Dr. Bechhold made it her goal to educate herself and other physicians about care for the terminally ill. Many physicians, she said, don't refer patients to hospice because they think it's admitting they failed to cure.

"You have to get in the mind-set that I am not responsible for their terminal illness," she said. "It is not my failure. I can help make them comfortable and have a good life with what life they have left and support their family."

Dr. Rebecca Gohmann Bechhold
  • Birthplace: West End.
  • Birthplace: Portsmouth, Ohio.
  • Residence: Symmes Township.
  • Occupation: Oncologist with Oncology - Hematology Care, Inc. in Montgomery; medical director of Hospice of Cincinnati since 1988. Family: Married 15 years to Christopher Bechhold, an attorney. Children: Christina, 13, and Claire, 9.
  • Education: Bachelor of arts, Ohio State University; University of Louisville School of Medicine.
  • Current projects: Editor, Cincinnati Medicine, a news publication of the Cincinnati Academy of Medicine; board of advisers, Wellness Community.
  • Best advice received: ''Always do your best, and everything else will always take care of itself.'' (From her father, Dr. Joseph Gohmann.)
  • She believes physicians should be honest with the terminally ill about their condition.

    "If somebody tells you that you have less than six months to live, there are some things that you might do differently than if you thought you were going to live much longer," she said.

    Raymond L. Grismer of Montgomery, who nominated Dr. Bechhold for Woman of the Year, recalled the support he got from her when his wife was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 1991.

    "She very carefully explained the risks and the chances for recovery," Mr. Grismer wrote. "I was impressed with her honesty and straightforward answers to my many questions. Those were difficult times for me, and I needed straight talk."

    Mr. Grismer's wife, Helen, died in 1993, but they had some quality time together, thanks to Dr. Bechhold and hospice.

    As hospice medical director, Dr. Bechhold checks patients daily. She also attends a weekly team meeting where health care professionals discuss each patient's well-being.

    She smiles at good news, frowns at bad. A patient's emotional state weighs on her as heavily as physiology.

    When she heard a patient constantly cries about her prognosis, she asked, "Does she have a priest or rabbi come to see her? Does that help?"

    Martin D. Piazza, a Hospice of Cincinnati board member who nominated Dr. Bechhold for Woman of the Year, wrote: "From our first meeting, I could tell that Becky 'burned' with the mission of hospice, and that she infused incredible strength and energy into making sure that every human being should enjoy a quality of life up through the last day of life."

    Working with terminally ill patients could be depressing, but Dr. Bechhold stays focused. "You have to have a life outside of medicine," she said. "You have to keep things in perspective." Her life outside of medicine includes volunteering for her church, All Saints Catholic in Kenwood, as a lector and Eucharistic minister, and serving as a room mother at her daughters' school, Cincinnati Country Day.

    She also like to golf, ride horses, play tennis and ski.

    She tries to instill a sense of volunteerism in her children, not by pushing them, but by example. Her oldest daughter, Christina, 13, volunteers at Hospice of Cincinnati on Sunday mornings.

    "One of the most important things to me is that I raise children who have a sense of responsibility to the community," she said. "I've never struggled for anything. I've been fortunate. My daughters are fortunate. That's all the more reason to give back."

    She also gives back through her career, which she said is a perfect fit for her. "I think you have to choose something you feel really committed to so you can really love what you do every day."

    And she does.

    Juanita M. Adams | Rebecca Bechhold | Sarah Blanken | Shannon Carter
    Susan S. Friedlander | Barbara Gould | Margaret Richards | Susan Tew
    Judith Van Ginkel | Kathy Wade
    Cover | Introduction | Previous winners