There is something quintessentially American about children following their parents into the family business. Even in the highly competitive, unique field of healthcare, having a son or daughter follow doctor mom or doctor dad into medicine is not unusual. What is unusual is five members of the same family–representing different specialties–working at the same hospital and even on the same cases. But for the past several years, it’s been a dynamic that Baylor University Medical Center, part of Baylor Scott & White Health, has been fortunate to have in the Lichliter’s.
Warren Lichliter, MD, colorectal surgeon on the medical staff, has been a pillar at Baylor University Medical Center since starting his internship in 1978, and he is the patriarch of a Dallas family committed to caring for others.
“Three out of my four children went into healthcare,” explains Dr. Lichliter. “Chris is an anesthesia tech. Gary is an anesthesiologist, and Abigail is a public health nurse.” Chris and Gary Lichliter, MD, are both on staff at Baylor University Medical Center, while Abigail works in Great Falls, MT.
In case you weren’t counting, that makes three Lichliters at Baylor University Medical Center…but wait, there’s more.
Warren has an identical twin brother who is a dentist in Memphis, TN, and whose son, Andrew, looks almost exactly like Gary (for obvious reasons). He’s also in medicine. After finishing top of his class in medical school, Andrew Lichliter, MD, chose Baylor University Medical Center for his radiology residency.
Of course, Andrew brought his fiancé-now-wife, Marissa, who was entering her second year of a surgical residency at the time.
“It was almost beyond luck that they were both able to land spots here,” explains Warren. That’s because Baylor University Medical Center’s PGY2 spots were full when Marissa was first looking to transfer from her program in Chattanooga, meaning she’d have to redo a preliminary year. But a surgical resident dropped out opening a spot.
On the case
There have been several cases all five Lichliters have worked on together: Warren and Marissa operating, Chris managing the equipment and Gary handling anesthesia, with Andrew reading radiology film.
“It’s truly a privilege,” says Warren. “How many people get to work in the same OR as their dad or as their kids? It’s really kind of special.”
Though it’s not completely without its drawbacks. Warren says he’s had to call Admitting more than once because a patient was assigned to the wrong Lichliter. They also take some ribbing from colleagues.
“‘We really need to spray for Lichliters’,” is something Warren recounts hearing from an interventional radiology colleague after he ran into Gary, Chris and Andrew in the same room.
Although, the days of five Lichliters on a case are over for now, as Andrew and Marissa graduated residency in June 2019 and are off to New York for fellowships.
Father knows best
Prior to completing his anesthesiology residency in Houston, Gary did his internship at Baylor University Medical Center where dad was one of his instructors.
“It was the only time I got to tell him he’s wrong, and he couldn’t do anything about it,” says Warren.
Having the final word over Gary was only a recent perk of teaching, as medical education is something about which Warren has always been passionate. It’s one of the things that kept the Illinois native at Baylor University Medical Center after completing his residency, along with the “sense of family” among the medical staff and clinical team.
“Nowhere I looked did I find the same congeniality, collegiality and friendless that exists among the medical staff here,” he says.
It’s also among the selling points he’s using to convince Andrew and Marisa to return to Baylor University Medical Center after they complete their fellowships in New York. He’s hoping they will rejoin Chris and Gary, giving the Lichliters an even stronger presence at the medical center–hopefully for at least another four decades.