For the 18 years that they practiced together, they were known as “Dr. Robert” and “Dr. Matthew.” It was the easiest way for their dermatology patients to know whether they were seeing the elder Dr. Katz—Robert—or his son, Matthew. Robert, 77, is retired now, but Matthew continues to treat patients, including his father, at the Katz Dermatology office in North Bethesda. “He’ll still pop in if he’s got something and needs it removed,” Matthew says.
Growing up, Matthew occasionally visited his dad at the office or tagged along when he went to see patients in nursing homes. After graduating from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Matthew majored in biology in college and then attended medical school. “People would say, ‘How did you get Matthew to go into dermatology?’ ” Robert says. “I never told him to. I never implied that he should. It must have, by osmosis, gotten to him—what medicine meant to me.”
Matthew, 53, considered becoming a surgeon but decided dermatology offered a better work-life balance, he says. He remembered his dad being home a lot, and never getting called away on emergencies. “Until the day he retired, he was extremely enthusiastic about what he did,” says Matthew.
Though they occasionally consulted on cases, each doctor saw mainly his own patients. “We didn’t chitchat a lot,” says Robert, who lives in Bethesda and now volunteers at Mercy Health Clinic in Gaithersburg. Outside the office, the two rarely talked shop. One of Matthew’s sisters is a teacher; the other is a potter. Holiday gatherings were about family. “We left work at work,” Matthew says.
Robert cut back on his hours nine years ago and retired in 2012. “The worst thing about retiring for me,” he says, “was that I was leaving people who I took care of for 40 years.” The silver lining, he says, was that he knew they were in capable hands. Robert recently spoke to a former patient who told him, “Matthew’s taking good care of me.”
“I remember my father slathered in the first sunscreens when we would go to the beach every summer, the very early sunscreens that would stain everything yellow or orange. He was probably one of the first guys with an umbrella—I remember him sitting under
the umbrella with a hat on.”
FATHER KNOWS BEST
“It was nice, especially in the beginning, to get his advice, his pearls on what’s made him successful. He was never somebody to say, ‘Do it this way or do it that way.’ That was very helpful.”
“The secret is sun protection. I tanned—I’ve got all these spots. They come out when you’re in your 30s, 40s and 50s. The 18- and 20-year-olds sitting on the beach look great. Their skin is flawless. The effects of that come later—spots and wrinkles, hopefully not skin cancers.”
ON PATIENTS GETTING BETTER:
“I see infants and toddlers up to people in their 90s and 100s. It’s gratifying to see their satisfaction in getting their psoriasis or itchy eczema cleared up—or acne that’s causing a kid to be very self-conscious. Catching melanomas at a very early stage when they’re curable—patients are very grateful for that. Or a mole they’ve never liked on their face, and we’ve taken that off and they’re thrilled with the results.”
THE TRUTH ABOUT PIMPLES
“A lot of people are under the impression that the soda their kid’s drinking or their diet has a lot to do with their acne—it doesn’t. People come in and say, ‘My bangs are causing my acne.’ That’s not really true. Acne is mostly hormonally based. You see a lot of teenagers with it. You frankly see a lot of adults with it, too.”
“I play golf and bike and run, so I’m outside a lot. I wear a hat. I get an umbrella. I use SPF 50—if I’m out at the beach for hours, I reapply it every couple hours. I swim in the winter, and my skin gets dry and itchy that night, so I put moisturizing lotion on. I don’t do much [for my skin] other than protect it. We have gentle soap in the house—Dove, Neutrogena, that sort of thing. Whatever soap my wife buys, I use it.”