Family affair

October 22, 2010

Ever wonder about the pros and cons of a father/son practice?

Ever wonder about the pros and cons of a father/son medical practice? I was lucky enough to enjoy such an arrangement for 19 years. In my mind the pros really outweighed the cons.

Some of the people I knew working in medicine tried to talk me into pursuing other practice areas. I had a cousin who was a radiologist and he informed me that the lifestyle couldn't be beat and I should seriously consider his group. He said, "You sit and read x-rays, drink your coffee, and they pay you a ton of money." One of my closest friends had decided on a GI fellowship and we were talking about my joining him and going to Reno, Nevada, to practice together. I knew the reimbursement was excellent in this specialty.

One evening I ran into a local dermatologist I knew. He told me that the dermatology program at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, was looking for 1 more resident for the next year. He suggested that in 20 years, if I stuck with internal medicine, I would tire of being called in the middle of the night by the emergency department about a patient in heart failure. He said he would be glad to recommend me for the opening in the dermatology program. It sounded more than reasonable. Two days later I had an interview with the head of the department of dermatology and was accepted into the program.

I went over to my dad's house and told him the news. He responded by telling me that sounded great, but would I be happy in 20 years "looking at pimples all day?" The next day I called the dermatology department and withdrew my acceptance to his program. I was now committed to the ultimate "family practice." I was about to begin 19 years as my father's partner, colleague, and friend.

From a financial standpoint, I suspected that this arrangement might not end up being the best choice over the long term. However, when we first discussed finances, my father made an offer that I knew could never be matched anywhere else in internal medicine. There was no "buying into" the practice. I didn't have to purchase any good will. I didn't have to buy a share of depreciated medical equipment. There was no noncompete clause if I left the practice.

There were no elusive formulas to become a partner someday. In 2 years, I was to be a full partner, period. In fact, my dad instructed the attorneys to look for other ways to make things even better for me. In short, it was what you would expect from your dad. After meeting with our attorney, it seemed almost too good to be true.