Columnist

Sunday was the official Father’s Day, but over at Providence Hospital, it’s Father’s Day pretty much every day of the week.

Got a problem with your bum knee? Dr. Marc E. Rankin can help you. So can his father, Dr. Edward Anthony Rankin. Ticker on the fritz? Choose between Dr. Joseph A. Quash Jr. and Dr. Joseph A. Quash Sr., both cardiologists. Stumble bleeding into the emergency room and Dr. William J. Strudwick will be happy to stitch you up. His late father, Dr. Warren J. Strudwick, was a noted surgeon at Providence.

Last week, I had most of these physicians gathered in a room at the 151-year-old hospital in Northeast. Who’s a better doctor, I asked, father or son?

The two Rankins looked at each other and chuckled. “Marc’s a much better arthroscopist than I am,” Edward Rankin, 71, said diplomatically. “He’s definitely superior to me on that.”

Marc Rankin, 43, diplomatically said his father was better at everything else. “My father trained specially in hands,” he said. “As total joints became more popular, he started to do total knees and hips and carved out a niche with that. . . . Most of what I learned about total knees I learned from him.”

From left: Marc E. Rankin; his father, Edward Anthony Rankin; William J. Strudwick; and Joseph A. Quash Jr., doctors at Providence Hospital in Northeast. The Rankins are both orthopedic surgeons. Dr. Quash and his father are both cardiologists. Dr. Strudwick's father died in 2008 but also practiced for years at Providence. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)

Quash Jr., 38, diplomatically said, “No question my dad is better.” Then he added: “I do something my dad doesn’t do, and that’s intervention. I’m able to fix these blocked vessels. I’m the better interventional cardiologist. He’s the better cardiologist.”

Strudwick, 49, chose a different specialty from his surgeon father. “Honestly, in medical school, I couldn’t stand the environment of the operating room,” he said. He was always antsy, touching something he shouldn’t be touching. “I needed to be in an environment where I was doing a lot of moving around.”

He chose the controlled chaos of the emergency room.

It’s not unusual for children to follow in their parents’ footsteps when it comes to a career, but the father/son teams at Providence must be unique. Though the younger Rankin and Strudwick are third-generation doctors, neither said they were pressured to go into the family business. Neither was Quash.

“We never had a conversation about our careers,” Strudwick said. “We had a lot of conversations about ‘Why didn’t you get a good grade on that test? Why didn’t you do your homework?’ But never about ‘You should be a doctor.’ ”

But how could they have been anything else? Each of the younger doctors remembers visiting Dad at work, hanging in the doctors lounge, tagging along on rounds. As boys will do, they each harbored dreams of sports stardom, but they eventually had to accept the crushing disappointment of becoming accomplished and respected physicians instead.

The decision, they said, didn’t just come because they enjoy medicine — the science of it, the art — but also because of seeing how their fathers’ careers brought them such joy.

“It seemed that he loved his job, loved everybody he encountered, and they loved him as well,” Strudwick said. (His mother was a doctor as well, an obstetrician.)

Patients, they said, like encountering another generation of docs. Said Strudwick: “They’ll have a sense of pride about it and also a sense of comfort. They’ll say, ‘If you’re anything like your dad or mom, I’m in good hands.’ ”

Added Quash: “In addition, they can also say, ‘Now, I know your daddy . . . ’ ”

Left unsaid: “And you’d better believe I’ll tell him if you mess me up.”

So I asked: Are good doctors born or made?

A bit of both, they said.

Strudwick said good doctors are good communicators. That’s a trait your family passes on. Medical school is hard, Marc Rankin said. Medicine is, too. “What’s going to carry you through is a passion,” he said. “You can’t teach passion. You kind of have to be born with that drive.”

A father comes in handy with that.

And there are some things sons can teach their fathers. It’s the sons who dragged their fathers’ practices into the 21st century, insisting on replacing acres of files with electronic medical records. Sounds like the teenage kid who’s asked to program the family DVR.

Send a Kid to Camp

Camp Moss Hollow is another place where generations come together. Parents often send their kids. Those kids often become counselors. It creates a nice family atmosphere at the summer camp for at-risk kids from the Washington area. You can help support the camp and give a city kid a week in the country by making a tax-deductible gift to our annual campaign.

To give, go to washingtonpost.
com/camp
. Click where it says “Give Now,” and designate “Send a Kid to Camp” in the gift information. Or mail a check payable to “Send a Kid to Camp” to Send a Kid to Camp, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.