News & Politics

All in the FAMILY


When Lara Oboler was three, she'd tag along with her cardiologist dad on weekend calls. As a Holton-Arms student, she worked summers taking EKGs, drawing blood, and answering phones in his DC office.

"As a kid, I found the beeping machines scary," she says. "But eventually I realized some of those sick people were getting better and going home. I followed their care–and realized my dad was a hero."

Years ago, that realization might have led a girl to marry a doctor. These days she picks up the stethoscope herself. Between training at George Washington University School of Medicine and Beth Israel Medical Center, Lara did her residency at the same place her father did–Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where she met her husband, an investment banker.

"I told him, 'You know I'm going back to Washington to work with my father,' " she recalls. "I never actually realized that before I said it."

Last year, at age 34, Lara Oboler joined Allen Oboler in practice. They're interventional cardiologists at Washington Hospital Center, where they sometimes share patients. Their specialty is minimally invasive procedures–using a catheter, not a scalpel, which he used back in the early days.

Their "table work" includes placing stents and doing angioplasties, brachytherapies (irradiation), rotablations (removing calcium deposits), and thrombectomies (removing clots)–all in the coronary arteries.

It's a symbiotic relationship, part yin and yang, part George Burns and Gracie Allen.

She's got the practice–more than a thousand interventions with the latest techniques, drilled and copied around the clock.

But judging a case sitting in a chair right in front of you, that's when it can get fuzzy. You can't get that from a textbook. Everything was borderline with this patient: the echocardiogram, the left and right catheterizations. Should Lara send him home with medication or book the operating room?

A wrong guess one way would put the patient through unnecessary open-heart surgery. A wrong guess the other way would miss the window of opportunity for a new heart valve. So Lara turned to Dad.

He's got the experience–nearly 35 years of cardiology, including catch-up training in new interventional techniques. Allen scrutinized the symptoms as well as the test results, staring at the video screen. "I've seen this a million times," he said finally. "This patient needs surgery."

"You had to have seen lots of patients over lots of years to get a feel for that," Allen, 61, says later, "rather than just numbers. So for cases that tend to be tossups–"

Lara: "–I tend to ask him."

A week later, the patient walked out of the hospital a new man with a new valve.

his is fun for us," Dr. Oboler announces.

It doesn't matter which one; they both say it. And though Dad says daughter's going into medicine wasn't any master plan, he's tickled that she did: "Number one, I learn a lot from her. Number two, it's neat knowing she's interested in the same thing I'm interested in. We kibitz about work every time she comes by for dinner. It drives my wife crazy."

Allen: Did you see the stent I put in Mrs. Jones's LAD?

Lara: That was a great outcome.

Allen: I wasn't sure whether to use a 3.5 or a 4.0. . . .

Lynn: All right, that's enough. You're done.

As for the name, using the same one in the same field was confusing at first–even 225 miles away.

Doctors become "Doctor" right after med school, even though there's still internship, residency, perhaps a fellowship and more before they're on their own. For six months or so in New York when Lara was called Dr. Oboler, she'd look around and think, "He's here? Why would he be here?"

To avoid the comic–and annoying–possibilities of two heads turning, staffers call her Dr. Lara around the office. But when father and daughter stroll the hallways, someone's sure to call out, "It's Drs. Oboler!"

Not that there's much difficulty telling the two apart. The big difference between them, says Lara: "Dad is a fashion plate, and I prefer scrubs."