For these physicians, working at Northwest Permanente runs in the family

October 18, 2018

As the daughter of a Northwest Permanente (NWP) physician, Alison Herson was “a KP kid.” She’d spent her whole life as a Kaiser Permanente member, and the integrated care model was the only system she knew. But when she decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and go into medicine, she learned just how unique the KP system is. Through the process of becoming Alison Herson, MD, she experienced a range of care models, uncoordinated insurance plans, and payment systems. She resolved one day to work at a place that values primary care and prioritizes preventive care.

It makes sense then that today Alison is a NWP physician herself — practicing family medicine in Vancouver, Washington. As a bonus, she gets to enjoy occasional father-daughter lunches Kaiser Permanente’s Cascade Park Clinic with her dad, Mike Herson, MD, an endocrinologist who was department chief for 25 years and who now works as a locum physician.

Alison and Mike are one of many parent-child physician pairs at NWP, a fact that may not be too surprising.

“In terms of satisfaction,” said Mike, “there are very few professions that can match medicine.”

A Familiar Path

Sometimes, the multigenerational path to medicine is circuitous. When Greg Hayward, MD, graduated with an English degree from a liberal arts college, he set his sights on a PhD in English. However, after a stint teaching English as a second language in Korea, he wasn’t so sure. Meanwhile, a future in medicine felt familiar; Greg’s father, Arthur Hayward, MD, had practiced internal medicine at NWP since the late 1970s, and had formed friendships with a host of physician colleagues — people who Greg had known since childhood.

“I had positive associations with Kaiser Permanente,” said Greg, who now practices emergency medicine as Sunnyside Medical Center.

Before his son decided on medical school, Arthur had teased him, “Let’s go into business together.” Little did either of them know then that eventually they would be business partners – at Northwest Permanente.

“I’m tickled that he’s here,” said Arthur.

A Mother’s Inspiration

Today, Stella Dantas, MD, a practicing OB/GYN physician, serves as the Director of Operations for Specialty Care at Northwest Permanente. But during Stella’s childhood it was her mother, Lenora Dantas, MD, who was the physician in the family. Lenora worked full-time at the Beaverton Clinic for 30 years, then worked for 15 years as a locum physician. Today, as an emeritus physician, she helps with coding and chart review.

Stella recalls her mother’s six-day work week and how she sometimes rounded with her at the hospital after church on Sundays. “I saw that she took great care of patients,” Stella said.

“Even though she was very busy, she was a great role model,” said Stella, adding that her father was a supportive partner to his wife’s career.

Lenora came to the United States from the Philippines for postgraduate training after medical school. “I admire [my mother] for being a minority female physician — no negativity or struggle. Well, I’m sure she struggled, but she didn’t let it show,” Stella said.

Knowing What it Takes

All of the parents and children we talked to for this story shared something in common: just by virtue of proximity, of being in the same household, the parents helped their children to recognize the challenges of the profession — and its rewards.

Greg recalls that his father spent a couple of hours each evening poring over medical journals. “I bring a respect for the amount of dedication Dad had,” said Greg. “It’s a job that requires lots of dedication.”

Nowadays, Arthur appreciates the opportunity to keep up on medical advances and enjoys interrogating Greg about various cases (keeping patient privacy in mind, of course).

Meanwhile, as she advanced through school, Alison sought her father’s advice about aspects of her career — especially the challenges facing primary care and specialty medicine and what to do about them, how to foster a productive and positive workplace dynamic, and more.

“I admire my dad so much,” Alison said. “He is an exemplary parent and physician, and I aspire to be like him!”

As for Stella, she doesn’t equivocate: “My mother’s involvement in medicine inspired me to be a physician.”

“I hear so many stories of people asking, ‘Why would you want to go into medicine?’” she added. “Mom never told me to become a doctor. She never encouraged me and never discouraged me. It was only a positive thing. She loved her work.”

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