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Professional News
Some Psychiatrists Keep It All in the Family
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 5 page 13-17
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Sondralyn Fackler, M.D. (left), and Ray McCard, M.D., operate a practice together in Macon, Ga. "She is a delight to work with," McCard said of his daughter.

As with psychiatrists in any group practice, these colleagues share office space, consult with one another, and cover for one another during vacations.

But every now and then, a clinical discussion in the hallway turns into more of a lecture, which is likely to be met with a much-practiced rolling of the eyes.

One psychiatrist’s professional accomplishments are described to outsiders with pride. And at the end of the day, farewells may be followed by a polite reminder about Sunday night dinner.

They are more than just colleagues; they are mothers and fathers sharing psychiatric practices with their adult children.

"She has the best of her mother and me," said Ray McCard, M.D., referring to his daughter, Sondralyn Fackler, M.D. The father-daughter pair opened a practice together in Macon, Ga., last March. "She has a natural talent for psychiatry," McCard said with undisguised pride.

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McCard, medical director of the Coliseum Psychiatric Center in Macon, started a solo practice in 1968. He was joined by a couple of additional psychiatrists in the following years, during which his daughter graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

"I thought she was going to be a diplomat," he said. But Fackler was headed in another direction.

"Dad," she told her father upon graduation, "I think I want to go to medical school."

So off she went to Emory University School of Medicine, where during her senior year she chose to work with her father as part of an elective. "I tried to make it a positive experience for her," McCard said. "She got a close look at what I did every day, and with my patients’ permission, she sat in on med checks."

Fackler said that when she started medical school, she didn’t know that she’d end up specializing in psychiatry.

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"But on the first day of my psychiatry rotation," she said, "I felt like I was at home—that this was where I needed to be."

And she knows why. "Did my father influence my choice of career? Absolutely!" Fackler said. "Not by directing me into psychiatry, but by showing me what it’s like to truly love what you do."

The two consult on certain cases, and Fackler said she benefits from her father’s "wisdom and experience," during the consultations.

"She is a delight to work with," McCard said.

When Mark Sampson, M.D., became a staff psychiatrist at the Southcentral Counseling Center of the Anchorage Community Mental Health Services, David Sampson, M.D., decided to step down from his job as medical director there. It was a small sacrifice to make for his son.

The elder Sampson, who had worked there for 25 years, moved to a position as senior psychiatrist at the center, and in the process, his son inherited half of his dad’s patient caseload.

Said Mark, "It was like a passing of the torch."

Although father and son meet at weekly medical team meetings, Mark admitted that he encounters his father’s legacy more often than he does his father. For instance, a common refrain from his father’s former patients goes something like this: "Your father didn’t do it that way."

Said Mark, "Many patients will ask me how my father is doing and ask me to say hello to him," which is often followed by ‘Did you know he treated me in the ’70s?’ "

After reflecting a moment, he added, "I think I represent something positive to them."

Mark said he thought practicing in the same mental health center as his father "would be really weird, but it turned out to be less weird than I thought it would be."

The elder Sampson agreed. "Neither of us knew quite what to expect at first," he said.

Father and son entered psychiatry at different times, for different reasons.

"I grew up being the mental health provider for my family," said David, "so there were a few things in my formative years that predisposed me to study how individuals relate to one another."

He said he didn’t encourage his son to enter medical school but was happy that he did. "I’m especially happy that he chose medical school over the other career he was considering—brew master."

He minimizes his role in his son’s career choice. "I would be hesitant to think I influenced my son’s decision to enter psychiatry," he said.

Mark sees things differently. "I grew up listening to taped CME lectures on psychiatry during long car trips," he said. "I’d also hear my father talking about his work," which he said ignited an interest in treating patients with mental illness. His experiences during clinical rotations as a medical student cemented his desire.

"It would be impossible to say my father didn’t have a role in my decision," he said.

David, who is president of the Alaska District Branch, does admit to influencing his son’s decision to get involved in APA governance—his son is secretary of the district branch.

For Bruce Wright, M.D., entering a group practice with his father, Alan Wright, M.D., was the right decision. "It was a great thing to enter the business and work with someone I could trust," he said.

Bruce helped his father conduct library research for his practice when he was a psychiatry resident at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

When he graduated in 1992, he worked at a nearby state hospital for a few years and then entered his father’s group practice. "Working with a family member made me feel better about the decision," he said.

The junior Wright divides his time between his practice with his father and his role as chair of psychiatry at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Although the practice with his father has gone well, Bruce said, it may have unintentionally created a bit of family strife.

"Sometimes my sister gets a bit envious," he said. "She is not in the business and sometimes may feel a little left out."

Father and son said the practice runs smoothly. "We’ve always gotten along and relate well to one another as professionals," Bruce said.

Alan agreed. His son, who was trained more recently, "brought some new and different ideas" to the practice. "We complement one another well," he said. ▪

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Sondralyn Fackler, M.D. (left), and Ray McCard, M.D., operate a practice together in Macon, Ga. "She is a delight to work with," McCard said of his daughter.

As with psychiatrists in any group practice, these colleagues share office space, consult with one another, and cover for one another during vacations.

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