Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Venice Physicians Keep Practices in the Family

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Venice Physicians Keep Practices in the Family

Article excerpt

'HOMETOWN EFFECT': City has at least a half-dozen parent-child teams


Dr. Michael Katz gets a kick out of his daughter, Dr. Stephanie Lirio, practicing medicine at Venice Regional Medical Center.

He likes to talk about the time he ran into a chatty nurse on the fourth floor.

"She says, 'Oh, yeah, you're Dr. Lirio's father,'" Katz says, his voice rising in mock indignation. "I'm like, excuse me -- I've been here 35 years, and now I'm Dr. Lirio's father?"

Father and daughter have different practices -- Katz, 63, is a podiatrist; Lirio, 40, is a psychiatrist -- but both work from the same office building near the hospital.

In fact, it's the same office where Lirio worked as a teenager during winter breaks and summer vacations.

"It sort of feels the same," she says. "When I was driving down here the first few weeks, I was thinking, yeah, this is weird."

'Hometown effect'

In the small city of Venice, the medical community is even smaller, but there are at least a half-dozen parent-child teams of doctors.

Drs. Melecito and John Baga. Drs. William and William Letson Jr. Drs. Aziz and Mehnaz Junagadhwalla.

Dr. Harold Kaplan is following in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Samuel Kaplan, who was one of the four physicians who founded Venice Hospital in 1950.

"When I was a little kid," he says, "the only quality time I had with my dad was making house calls or going to the hospital with him. He was enamored with medicine. He thought it was like apple pie in the sky.

"I'm still taking care of some of the patients he saw. A couple of them are in their 90s. A few are even centenarians."

Kaplan, 60, said he learned a lot from his father about bedside medicine.

"One of the things he always told me," he says, "is that if you listen to the patient long enough, they'll tell you what's wrong with them."

Like his father, Kaplan tries to listen to his patients. Like his father, Kaplan has a family practice in Venice. Like his father, Kaplan became president of the Sarasota County Medical Society.

Unlike his father, who was from Boston, Kaplan chose to return home after medical school.

"Venice has that hometown effect," he says. "It was a great place to grow up and that's one of the reasons people come back.

"I'm sure you could go to Sarasota and find the same thing. In Bradenton, one of the first surgeons was named Ganey, and he had three sons who became physicians."

Sharing a practice

Dr. Ron DeMasi also grew up in Venice. He never planned to come home, much less join his father's gastroenterology practice, but that's the way things turned out.

"It seemed to fall in place at the last minute," he says. "We never talked about it -- it was kind of out there -- but it seemed like a no-brainer.

"Between us, it was very complementary. He appreciated having me around because I had the latest and greatest training. …

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