On the Trail with Michael Beck-Gifford, CPNP/FNP
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – or so the saying goes. But for pediatric and family nurse practitioner and seasoned mountain biker Michael Beck-Gifford, this phrase is more than an aspirational mantra; it’s a perfect expression of his life.
Staying strong through nearly 32 years in health care and frequent uphill climbs, Michael isn’t one to shy away from challenges. In fact, it’s the difficult and daunting experiences of life that have often inspired and solidified his chosen paths. And his longtime love of mountain biking is no exception to this rule.
“The first time I got on a mountain bike, I darn near killed myself going down Wathen Trail in Horsetooth Mountain Park,” he laughs. “I flipped over, missed a huge rock expanse, slid 15 feet, broke my rear wheel, and didn’t ride for another three months.”
Even after this less-than-favorable introduction to the sport, Michael got back on the bike and has spent the last two decades riding the rocky terrain of Colorado and beyond – covering a lot of ground and developing great friendships along the way. “I love the thrill of going downhill and cleaning difficult stretches of trail,” he says with a smile. “But I also really enjoy the camaraderie. It’s a huge motivator to have people I bike with regularly – some of the same people who introduced me to the sport years ago.”
Michael’s determined resolve to keep going, even when the going gets rough, is not limited to the biking trail. His initial entry into the medical field and subsequent years serving patients from all walks of life have also been characterized by both courage and commitment.
“I love the thrill of going downhill and cleaning difficult stretches of trail. But I also really enjoy the camaraderie.”
“I first realized I wanted to do something in health care when I completed a counseling training program at Haight-Ashbury Clinic in San Francisco,” Michael shares. “I was a junior in college and didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I took a year off and worked in the clinic’s heroine detox unit counseling addicts.” He continues, “I was just a 21-year-old kid from the suburbs, but it had a big impact on me. I knew I wanted to work with people and hopefully prevent some of what I saw there from happening.”
After his life-altering experience as a counselor, Michael pursued a pediatric nursing degree and spent the next 21 years working indigent care in Northern Colorado. In 2007, he added a family nurse practitioner certification to his list of credentials. Now, as a pediatric and family nurse practitioner with Associates in Family Medicine, he continues to live his dream – helping patients make positive choices that promote good health. “I especially love working with kids,” he grins. “It’s rewarding to have an impact on their health over time and to see patients I saw at two weeks of age become parents.”
Whether he’s navigating switchbacks or caring for patients, Michael certainly encounters his share of bumps and thrills. Yet he’ll tell you that on the trail and in the clinic, the view from the top is always worth the climb.