For Father and Son, Working Together is a Matter of the Heart

June 14, 2017 Aidan R. Raney, MD


Cardiologist Aidan R. Raney, MD, still remembers the first procedure he performed at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian. “The first case is always a big one; this was a tough case in a new place with a lot of stress,” he says. Fortunately for him, he had someone in the room with him who was a steadying source of encouragement—his dad.

Dr. Raney’s father – Aidan A. Raney, MD – is an esteemed cardiothoracic surgeon at Hoag, the program director of Hoag’s Cardiovascular Surgical Services, surgical director of Hoag Heart Valve Center and the James & Pamela Muzzy Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Surgery. He was present during his son’s first case just for moral support – father and son were collaborating on a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), an alternative procedure for patients who can’t withstand the rigors of open-heart surgery. TAVR procedures require that a cardiologist and a heart surgeon work together.

“It was great to have my dad there; he was level-headed and very calm,” Dr. Raney says. “I knew I was well-trained and could do it, but it set up a good environment for me and everything went well.”

Dr. Raney’s dad says it’s a great experience working with his son. “He’s very talented and gifted, and I’m grateful that’s the case. I’m impressed; I think he does a great job,” he says, adding with a laugh, “And I’m not saying that just because he’s my son.”

A board-certified cardiologist, the younger Dr. Raney is affiliated with both Hoag and St. Joseph Hospital, Orange, and has an outpatient clinic at St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group, all part of the St. Joseph Hoag Health network of care. He is the medical director of the Structural Heart Disease Program at St. Joseph Hospital and specializes in interventional cardiology procedures, such as TAVR.

He estimates he’s completed about 100 since finishing his medical training—and in about 10 of those cases, patients have benefitted from the expertise of father and son. Hoag was the first hospital in Orange County to offer TAVR, which began in 2012, allowing Dr. Aidan R. Raney to work alongside and learn from his father Dr. Aidan A. Raney, who was the first in Orange County to perform the TAVR procedure.

But when it came to his career path, Dr. Raney didn’t immediately follow in his father’s footsteps. Although he had gone on rounds with his dad and observed some of his surgeries while he was growing up, he went to medical school after a stint at E-Trade that left him feeling unfulfilled professionally. After graduating from George Washington University School of Medicine, he trained in cardiology and internal medicine at University of California, Irvine.

For his part, Dr. Raney, the surgeon, says he didn’t try to push his son toward a career in medicine. “My dad was a neurosurgeon as well, so Aidan comes from a lineage of medical specialists,” says Dr. Raney, who completed medical school at USC and residencies at Stanford. “My father never suggested to me in any way to be a physician, and I did the same thing with my kids. Ultimately I wanted my children to be fulfilled. When Aidan decided to go to medical school I was happy for him—it’s a wonderful profession with a tremendous opportunity to make a big difference in people’s lives.”

The fact that father and son can work together to change lives is due to “a lot of luck,” Dr. Raney, the son, says. When he finished his medical training, there was an opportunity to work at Hoag, whose Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute was the first to offer TAVR in Orange County. His father was already at Hoag, having arrived there in 1987 from Sharp Hospital in San Diego when he was offered the opportunity to run Hoag’s cardiac transplant/heart surgery program.

While Dr. Raney, the son, now performs most of his procedures at St. Joseph Hospital, he still gets to work with his father on certain cases at Hoag; currently, they have a patient preparing to enter a clinical trial there.

“Working together is a unique opportunity because of the programs at Hoag and St. Joseph Hospital—I wouldn’t have been able to work with my dad if we had been at any other hospitals,” Dr. Raney says.

The two Raneys are in frequent contact. Because TAVR is also offered to patients referred by Mission Hospital and St. Jude Medical Center, as well as those at Hoag and St. Joseph Hospital, they participate in a teleconference call with physicians from all the hospitals every week.

Father and son do try to limit the shop talk at family gatherings—although with six Raney siblings and all of their kids, there’s not a lot of time to discuss work.

Having two Dr. Raneys around Hoag hasn’t caused as much confusion as you might think.

“Sometimes people come to see me but they are looking for him,” the younger Dr. Raney says. “They say, ‘You’re younger than I thought you would be.’ And some people who know us both say, ‘You look like your dad, but about a foot taller.’”

“But at home, even though he’s a foot taller, he’s still little Aidan and I’m Dad,” his father adds.

Both father and son say they’ve benefitted from their professional collaboration. “I’ve learned a lot in terms of my approach to patients,” Dr. Raney, the son, says. “He’s taught me to approach cases with a lot of careful planning; I don’t just run in without a plan ahead of time. His relationships with his patients are great. Everyone likes him, everyone knows Dr. Raney. He’s very professional and friendly.”

“He’s trying to teach me we won’t need heart surgeons anymore; he’s smarter than I am because [minimally invasive interventional procedures] are the future,” Dr. Raney, the father, says. “Medicine is a very challenging and interesting profession and we’re always learning and trying to do what’s best for the patient. I’m happy we both work together on these problems and challenges. Mutual respect is the overbearing sentiment I feel. I’m proud he is a physician—he’s a good doctor dedicated to patient care and he’s very skilled with his hands.”

Dr. Raney has his own special memory of that first procedure he did with his son. Sitting on the desk in his library at home is a photo someone took of father and son that day.

“I never would have imagined that would happen, getting to work with him,” he says. “It was a very special day.”

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.


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