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A Tale of Two Hendins

A Father-Daughter Neurology Team

STUMP, ELIZABETH

doi: 10.1097/01.NT.0000342319.52753.d5
IN THE FIELD

Lori Hendin Travis, MD, always knew she wanted to become a doctor. And, she admits, her father, neurologist Barry Hendin, MD, has played a major part in influencing her love affair with the field.

“He frequently shared interesting cases with us at the dinner table, and his enthusiasm for neurology overflowed into home life,” she told Neurology Today in an interview.

Today, that enthusiasm runs both ways as the father and daughter discuss neurology at their clinic. Dr. Travis and Dr. Hendin share a private neurology practice, along with three other partners, in Phoenix, AZ, and both hold academic appointments at the University of Arizona Medical School: Dr. Hendin, who since 1979 has been the chief of neurology at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital, is a clinical professor of neurology at the university, while his daughter is clinical assistant professor of neurology there.

“I don't think I actively encouraged any of my children to go into medicine,” Dr. Hendin told Neurology Today. “As a family, we talked about medicine and human behavior.” Still, there's no denying that medicine is a family affair — one daughter is a psychiatrist, another majored in psychology, and Lori chose neurology.

“Neurology has been an extraordinarily fulfilling career for me,” he continued, “and I think my children were able to see that a person could live a balanced life and still have a fulfilling professional career. Those things are probably taught wordlessly.”

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LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER

Like Dr. Hendin, Dr. Travis is interested in research and therapies for multiple sclerosis, stroke, and headache, and both have published papers in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Travis, who graduated from the University of Arizona and completed her neurology residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, joined her father's practice in 2002.

She works in the office four of five weekdays; every fifth week she works seven days straight and is “on call” 24-7 at the hospital; as attending neurologist, she teaches residents and medical students on the neurology service.

And she does it all with no less than seven children — yes, seven — to her brood, ranging in age from 8 months to 13 years old. Although managing such a large family and working out so many schedules is definitely a challenge, “I do feel like I have a nice balance of work and family and I love that the two are complementary,” Dr. Travis said, and she credits her supportive husband and a nanny (for the three youngest children) to helping make that balance successful.

Another proven strategy in their household: a big dry-erase calendar in the dining room containing the family's commitments for the next day that is reviewed when they sit down together for dinnertime. “The only drawback to this system is that if we forget to write it on the calendar, it doesn't get done!”

As for sharing her passion for neurology, Dr. Travis said she relishes the chance to discuss challenging cases with her father, her “biggest mentor,” who has been in practice 36 years.

The two see each other frequently during the day in the office, and their generational divide — going to school and training at different times — has not led to many differences in how they practice.

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“When I became a neurologist, we were known as specialists who ‘admired disease rather than treating disease,’” Dr. Hendin explained. “At our best, we are still analytical, but we have become highly involved in patient treatments,” thanks to a wider array of diagnostic technology and therapies.

In fact, their age difference has had a complementary rather than divisive effect, Dr. Hendin explained. He brings many years of experience, and Dr. Travis has brought to the practice up-to-date training in genetics and immunotherapy, computer skills, and a willingness to challenge commonly held (and sometimes incorrect) beliefs.

On two separate occasions Dr. Travis challenged her father on data he had presented. “Once I was right, and once I was wrong,” he said. “She understood I was as passionate about the truth as she was.”

He continued, ”Discussing difficult cases aloud gives me the chance to organize my own thinking and clarify my own thinking, and I hope that I provide the same benefit to her.

“At this stage of my career I am actually offered the most exciting opportunities in research, teaching, and leadership than I have ever had in my 36 years of practice,” he said. “Practicing with my daughter is a special bonus.”

One of Dr. Hendin's daily satisfactions is getting an update on his grandchildren. “Lori has been a wonderful model of combining both her professional role and her role as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend.”

The senior neurologist doesn't see himself stopping practice any time soon — or at least for another 10 years. “I am able to provide some benefit to my community and receive so much back,” he said.

His daughter couldn't agree more: “He is so wise, intelligent, and kind, and I have learned so much from him,” she said, “and hope to continue to learn from him for years to come.”

There's a good chance too the family business will not end with Dr. Travis: “My oldest son recently told me he might be interested in becoming a psychiatrist…so we just might end up with three generations of physicians!”

©2008 American Academy of Neurology