Lloyd McKenzie on Woody Beeler

Guest post: My close friend Lloyd wanted to share his thoughts on hearing the news about Woody.

My recollections of Woody are similar to Grahame’s.

I started my HL7 international journey in 2000.  In my case, it was in an attempt to understand how I could design my v2 profiles so they would be well aligned with v3.  I quickly learned the foolishness of that notion, but became enamored of the v3 effort.

HL7 was an extremely welcoming organization and Woody played a big part in that welcome.  I was a wet-behind the ears techy from Canada and he was an eminent physician, former organization chair and respected elder of the organization.  Yet he always treated me as an equal.  Over the years, we collaborated on tooling, data models, methodology, processes and the challenges of getting things done in an organization with many diverse viewpoints.  In addition to his sense of humour and willingness to get his hands dirty, I remember Woody for his passion.  He really cared about making interoperability work.  He was willing to listen to anyone who was trying to “solve the problem”, but he had little patience for those who he didn’t sense had similar motivations.

His openness to new ideas is perhaps best exemplified by his reaction to the advent of FHIR.  Woody was one of the founding fathers of v3 and certainly one of its most passionate advocates.  Over his time with HL7, he invested years of his life advocating, developing tools, providing support, educating, guiding the development of methodology and doing whatever else needed to be done.  Given his incredible investment in the v3 standard, it would not be surprising for him to be reluctant to embrace the new up-and-comer that was threatening to upset the applecart.  But he responded to the new development in typical Woody fashion.  He asked probing questions, he evaluated the intended outcomes and considered whether  the proposed path was a feasible and efficient way to satisfy those outcomes.  Once he had satisfied himself with the answers, he embraced the new platform.  Woody took an active role in forming the FHIR governance structures served as one of the first co-chairs of the FHIR govenance board.  To Woody, it was the outcome that mattered, not his ego.

Woody embraced life.  He loved traveling with his wife Selby (and his kids or grandkids when he could).  He loved new challenges.  He loved his work, but he wasn’t afraid to play either.  He was an active participant in after-hours WGM poker games.

It was with reluctance that Woody stepped back from his HL7 activities after his diagnosis with cancer, but as he expressed it at the time, he had discovered that he only had time for two of three important things – fighting his illness, spending time with his family and doing the work he loved with HL7.  He chose the right two priorities.

While version 3 might not have had the success we thought it would when we were developing it, the community that evolved under HL7 v3 and the knowledge we gleaned in that effort has formed the essential foundation and platform that enabled the building of FHIR.  I am grateful to have had Woody in my life – as a mentor, a co-worker and a friend.  I am grateful too for everything he helped build.  Woody’s priority was to focus on really making a difference.  In that he has set the bar very high for the rest of us.

Thank you for everything you’ve done Woody.  We miss you.

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