Dr. James Mathias, DVM, welcomed two new veterinarians into his 27-year-old practice a little more than a year ago. That’s hardly extraordinary, considering that Mathias was eager to build his staff and free up time to pursue other projects.
But the new doctors weren’t just any new grads from his alma mater, Ohio State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. They were Drs. Jacob and Nick Mathias, twin brothers and Mathias’ sons.
Can there be too much family under one shingle? Maybe for some, but not for them, the family members say. After years of homeschooling and playing countless pickup basketball games and tennis matches together, the doctors say working together seemed like a natural move.
“We’re a very, very close family,” says James, 55. “It’s wonderful.”
The brothers, 26, agree. “This past year has been great. I’ve been learning a ton. I don’t think I’d change a thing,” Jacob says. “I couldn’t think of a better mentor than my dad.” Besides, adds Nick, “It’s fun.”
Proving Skeptics Wrong
Many friends advised against such a venture and were skeptical that family members could practice together. Some schoolmates who’d gone into practice with spouses had already declared such family businesses to be a mistake and had sought new positions.
Jacob says friends from school were shocked that he’d want to return to his small hometown of Tipp City, a Dayton, Ohio, suburb of about 12,000.
“When I talk about going back home they’re like, ‘Why would you ever do that?’ ” Jacobs says.
The three men were confident that the same chemistry that worked in their family lives would transfer to professional work at Tipp City Veterinary Hospital and Wellness Center, a 12,000-square-foot facility where internal medicine specialist Dr. Susan Dextradeur, DVM, also is on staff.
About the only sibling rivalry the fraternal twins experience is on the basketball court. Jacob may be taller, but Nick professes to know his brother’s every move. “He gets very frustrated,” Nick says, laughing.
In fact, as homeschooled students they’ve been playing, studying and working together all their lives. “We’re kind of used to learning together and we’re used to learning from our dad,” Nick says.
The brothers and their three sisters were homeschooled through most of elementary school, a decision James says was influenced by his desire to spend time with his family.
“As soon as you get one child in school it’s like your whole life revolves around the school schedule. We have a strong tradition of eating meals together and having fun together. I didn’t want to give that up,” he says.
Career Choice Led Back Home
Following in their father’s footsteps was not an automatic choice for any of the children. One daughter is an art professor, another owns a small chain of pizza parlors and the youngest is a clinical counselor. Both brothers were drawn to science, but it was human medicine they aimed for when they started college. At their father’s urging they participated in a program that paired pre-med students with physicians for one-on-one shadowing experiences and weekly shifts at dialysis centers. Both say they were discouraged to see physicians’ time and treatment decisions controlled by insurers.
Gradually, each decided that Dad’s branch of medicine was the best fit. “We may be a half step behind human medicine, but we never stop learning,” Nick says. “You never know what’s going to walk in that door and challenge you.”
The brothers had multiple offers upon graduation, but joining their father’s practice was appealing on many counts. Nick and his wife had a new baby and were eager to be near family. Jacob also wanted to stay close by.
A Case of Openness and Respect
They didn’t worry much about relationship challenges in the joint practice but figured they’d tackle any that arose. So far none has surfaced, the doctors say. They attribute their compatibility to the high value they place on openness and respect for each other’s strengths and points of view. Each addresses the other as “Doctor” and they relish each other’s opinion.
“They have very, very different personalities and they come about their evaluations from very, very different angles. They come with different ideas,” James says.
While both enjoy soft-tissue surgery, the twins have distinct interests, Nick’s being eye and dental issues and Jacob’s being cardiology.
The only hurdle the doctors had to overcome was scheduling. “As with every new veterinarian, do you just give them new clients or established clients?” James says. “We’ve worked that out and that seems to be going well. Now, after a year, they’re getting their own clients.”
At the heart of their practice is a shared value about veterinary medicine, their dad says. “We have a compatible philosophy in the way that we want to take care of clients. The recommendations we make we know are what’s best for the patient and client and not necessarily what’s best for the pocketbook. It’s integrity.
“It’s nice to have everyone on board as far as that’s concerned.”
So, all that time spent together and not a bit of normal sibling competition lurking in the background? Well, there are those basketball games.