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Rapport feature - Making medicine a family affair

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

For the Howard family children, being raised by parents who are doctors lent itself to some very different childhood experiences. Instead of learning just colours and shapes, they were taught the different bones and muscles of the body. Teaching videos done by their father, Dr. John Howard, a paediatric gastroenterologist and Professor in the Departments of Paediatrics, and Medicine at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, were much more interesting to watch than anything on cable television. Dinner conversation encompassed everything from how the day went, to various bodily functions.

That upbringing led two of the children, Jocelyn and Jessica, to follow in their parents' footsteps and become doctors.

Pursuing medicine as a career was never a given, nor an expectation of the Howard children, however. Family matriarch, Dr. Nicole LeRiche, associate professor, Department of Medicine, and a rheumatologist, notes that while she and her husband Dr. Howard are both practising physicians, neither of them ever expected their children to join what was becoming a family legacy "My father was a physician as well, and I never felt pressure to follow in his footsteps. Both John and I felt it was important for our children to create their own paths and pursue a career they love knowing they had our full support, no matter what."

Jocelyn, the youngest member of the Howard family, and a fourth-year medical student has an undergraduate degree in voice performance from the University of Toronto. It wasn't until after her graduation that she started seriously thinking about medicine. "It sounds like a cliché, but I was travelling through Europe and thinking about what I wanted for my future. While I was in Paris, I fully decided I wanted to go to medical school and applied to write my MCATs from there." Luckily, Jocelyn had always been interested in science, and picking up the occasional summer course simplified the transition.

Dr. Jessica Howard, MD '07, the eldest daughter in the family, considered a few different career paths before deciding upon medicine. Graduating with her Bachelor of Science degree in physiology and pharmacology in 2003, Jessica applied to both teacher's college and medical school, hearing back from medical school first. Currently, she works as a family physician with a specialization in skin disorders. Like her parents, she also holds an academic position at Schulich Medicine, as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine.

Meanwhile, Brendan, the squeamish one of the three siblings, chose not to go into medicine and has a successful career in management consulting.

While it was never an expectation, both Dr. LeRiche and Dr. Howard are pleased both their daughters have chosen medicine. Now that a third generation of Howard doctors are embarking on their own careers, not much has changed around the dinner table. The family, who gets together often, still discusses more 'unconventional topics' over a delicious meal.

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