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Father and daughter doctors perform heart surgery together

It might be the ultimate Father's Day gift: getting to work side by side with your daughter.

ST. LOUIS — Even more than scalpels and forceps, the most important tools for a surgeon are the hands.

And in the operating room, four hands are better than two.

Dr. Sophia Roberts is a second-year Washington University resident, training to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. Less than 5% of heart surgeons are women but making this even more unique, is that the doctor she assisted recently is her dad.

"It was a pretty complicated case but she, if I say so myself, did a really good job," said Dr. Harold Roberts, Washington University cardiothoracic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Following in her father's footsteps began at an early age for Sophia. Her path cemented after dinners out with the family.

Credit: Roberts family
Dr. Harold Roberts with his daughter Sophia.

"Inevitably, some family would come up to our table," Sophia remembered. "They'd say 'Oh Dr. Roberts you don't remember me but you operated on my mother and gave her ten extra years with us.' Or 'You operated on me and now I'm here with my family', and that had a big impact on me as a kid."

From then on, she was a girl who preferred scrubs to skirts.

"We got her this game called Operation when she was about four," recalled dad. "My sister Beth said, 'You know she's really good at that!'"

Credit: BJC
Dr. Harold Roberts surprises his daughter, Dr. Sophia Roberts, with a game of Operation, just like she used to play as a kid.

Though she was raised in south Florida, training at Washington University was always her dream. Her mom is from Belleville, so she'd visit the area often.

"My grandmother had surgery here," said Sophia. "My grandfather has been hospitalized here. It's a place that I'd want my family members to go to. So to me growing up this was always like the pinnacle of medicine."

After graduating from Yale and Ohio State University College of Medicine, she arrived in June of 2020. A year later, her dad would follow in her footsteps.

After 30 years as a cardiac surgeon in Florida and West Virginia, he texted with the news that he'd received an offer to work for Washington University's renowned Heart and Vascular program.

"My immediate response was yes, you have to do this!" Sophia said with a laugh.

"Trust me, if she's like 'oh please don't do that.' I wouldn't have come," added Harold.

Credit: BJC
Dr. Sophia Roberts assists her father, Dr. Harold Roberts in heart surgery.

Take your daughter to work day, wasn't just one day a year when Sophia was younger. She'd go with dad to the hospital, all the time.

They're still going to the hospital, only now, it's to perform surgery together.

"The thing I'm looking forward to is that this will be the first of many," said Harold proudly.

Dr. Roberts and Dr. Roberts. Their family business is healing.

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