They say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” and that’s definitely the case for a pair of father-daughter doctors in Missouri!
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Sophia Roberts grew up watching her father, Dr. Harold Roberts, saving lives as a cardiothoracic surgeon. It seemed like every time the family went out to dinner, someone approached her dad to thank him for performing surgery that gave them more time with their loved ones.
Harold fostered her admiration for medicine, giving her a copy of the board game “Operation” when she was just 4 years old.
“My sister Beth said, ‘You know she’s really good at that!'” Dr. Roberts recalls with a laugh.
When she was 11 years old, he brought Sophia to work with him and she watched him perform heart surgery. She was enthralled by the machines that circulated blood, the procedure, and the fact that the surgeon is the captain of a team of physicians all determined to heal others.
“The first case that she saw was me repairing a mitral valve,” said Dr. Roberts. “And instead of being some fidgety kid standing behind the ether screen there, she was riveted and actually pretty quiet. But I could tell from speaking with her afterwards that she’d really been intently watching it and seemed to really enjoy it.”
Sophia followed in her father’s footsteps as she got older, attending Yale University and the Ohio State University College of Medicine. In 2020, she accepted a residency at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. About a year later, her father was offered an associate professor of cardiac surgery position at the same hospital. With Sophia’s blessing, he accepted.
Within months of finding themselves in the same hospital, Sophia got the chance she’d been waiting for since she was a little girl. Dr. Roberts needed a first assistant for an aortic valve replacement, and all of the other surgeons were out due to COVID-19.
“I told Sophia that I had this case coming and she went out and read about it,” he said. “And she’d never seen it, much less assisted on it.”
Sophia rose to the occasion, eager to benefit from her father’s 32 years of experience in the operating room.
“It was really very smooth,” said the proud father. “I wouldn’t have done the case any better if I had another heart surgeon assisting me.”
“It’s very special that I was operating with him,” Sophia said. “But quite frankly, I could have been operating with anyone — like all of a sudden, you’re just focused on that patient and making the operation go smoothly.”
The patient is doing very well after surgery, and she was especially proud to be the first patient both Drs. Roberts operated on together.
This may have been the first time these doctors worked side by side, but it won’t be the last. Dr. Roberts says he’s excited to keep working with his daughter and watch her develop her skills in the family business.
“What can be better?” he asked. “I taught this kid how to ride a bicycle a few decades ago. Now, to get to teach her how to operate on a human heart is pretty mind-blowing.”
It’s worth noting that less than 8 percent of surgeons are women, so Sophia is breaking ground in more ways than one! This is what happens when we share our passions with our kids. You just never know where their interests will take them!
Don’t forget to share this father-and-daughter amazing bond with a friend.
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