Watching McLean Grow

Watching McLean Grow

Dr. Enrico Davoli retires after caring for McLean children for 44 years.

<bt>Since the early 1960s, before the days of huge houses popping up everywhere, before the first passenger ever boarded a Metro car, when McLean was still open land, Enrico Davoli was taking care of children.

When he hangs up his stethoscope on Aug. 28 for the last time, he will leave behind generations of children and parents who have trusted him for advice, to tend to their fears and fix their boo-boos.

"I don't know if I really grasped what it would mean to be a doctor but it was what my father wanted," Davoli said. The son of Italian immigrants during a time when most families in his situation were stressing the importance of earning a degree of some sort, he studied medicine at the Uptown campus of New York University and spent his first year-long internship at the Children's Hospital in Fairfax.

After he met and married Washington native Jane Louise Simpson in September of 1956, the couple stayed in McLean where they had and raised their six children, Cecilia, Frank, twins Michael and Joseph, JoanMarie and Paul.

He was not immediately drawn to pediatrics, he said, but became intensely interested in each part of his rotating internship while still in college.

"When I was studying surgery, I was going to be the biggest and best surgeon in the world," he said. After rotating out of the pediatric unit to another specialized department, he realized he missed working with children.

Davoli opened his private practice in his home on Great Falls Street in the fall of 1961 but soon developed a friendship with Dr. Joseph Evers, another pediatrician in McLean. The two began to trade off being on call for each other on weekends before entering into a practice together in 1963, in the newly constructed McLean Medical Building on Old Chain Bridge Road.

"There were many more private practitioners then, but it's so much harder to go it alone these days," he said, due partly to the increasing cost of insurance for doctors and patients alike.

"Now you have to enter into a contract and everyone in the agreement has to abide by the same policy, whether you're a doctor, a nurse, an X-ray technician," he said. "It's a very complex situation."

THE PRACTICE OF medicine and the way in which patients select their family doctors have changed drastically over the past 44 years, Davoli said.

"We have a lot of sharp patients, very medically savvy," he said, who have come into his office having researched their children's ailments on the Internet prior to an appointment in his office. "It also makes it easier to talk about a rare disease with patients. We can give them a name and they can find out so much more about it online. Technology has drastically changed the way we practice."

However, the change to HMOs and managed health care plans has caused headaches and frustration for Davoli and his partners.

"Everything is managed care these days," he said. "Each plan has guidelines that you have to follow. You have to make sure you see each patient fast enough and for a certain amount of time. There are a lot of Big Brothers watching your back."

He admits that some regulations and restrictions do help patients in the long run but create a long list of obstacles and checklists that doctors have to adhere to instead of helping patients.

"We can't discuss anything in the corridors of our office, all doors to rooms with records have to be locked which has increased the burden on the staff," Davoli said. "I don't think the practice of medicine has suffered too much other than people who have been refused care because of the managed care plans."

It is the children he will miss the most once his career has come to an end.

"I'm a clown in the office with the kids," he said. "Sometimes the mothers must think I'm crazy."

Many of those mothers had been patients of Davoli's when they were children, he said, having seen two or three generations of children grow up under his care.

"I always try to put a child at ease and make them comfortable with me," he said. "I guess it's working, I just said good-bye to a 21-year-old girl whose mother I took care of and she was all hugs and kisses when she left," he said.

As a new generation of doctors has graduated and joined the working world, Davoli decided he wanted to spend less time working to allow the new doctors to practice.

"We need young people out there," he said. "I really enjoy taking care of these patients. Children have always come first. Once I started to cut down my hours a bit I found I enjoyed having my own time to myself."

Treating the child means getting to know the parents, he said, which has made him a part of the lives of many families over the years.

In the past few years, Dr. Davoli and Dr. Evers have been joined by Dr. Chau Lam, for whom Davoli feels he's become a surrogate father.

"I'll miss the interchange among the three of us," he said. "Dr. Lam would come to me for advice from time to time or ask me to talk with patients if she's unsure of a diagnosis."

HAVING WORKED TOGETHER for more than 40 years, Dr. Evers and Dr. Davoli have become close friends in addition to sharing an office.

"We have enjoyed a wonderful association for the past 42 years," Davoli said. "It's been like having two marriages. I've always looked up to him. You have to be able to have an intimate rapport with your associates, and we've been able to have a free exchange of information and concern for our patients together."

In the time since he began spending more time at home and less time at the office, "I've rediscovered my wife," Davoli said. "We do a lot of things together now."

The couple has been hosting trips to Italy at least once a year for more than 20 years, he said, and he has become a liaison between the Society of Italian Pediatrics and the American Association of Pediatrics, thanks to a fluency in Italian.

He is also the president and founder of the Circolo della Briscola, a group of people who get together to play card tournaments.

The Davolis plan to spend more time visiting their children and five grandchildren, who live with their mother JoanMarie, a former public defender for Fairfax County who now lives in Baltimore. All of their children have followed in their parents' footsteps to become successful; Cecilia works for the Kennedy Kreiger Institute at Johns Hopkins, Frank is a "computer whiz" in San Diego working for the Navy, Michael is also involved in computers in Atlanta, Joseph works for Cyber after leaving his position as an attorney. Their youngest son, Paul, was an engineer before being killed in a car wreck 17 years ago. Jean Davoli was a biochemist who worked until one month before Cecilia was born, then became a full-time mother. "She did a fantastic job," Davoli said. "Our children used to tease Frank because he was the only one without two degrees. Our family motto when they were in college was do your best, but remember that B plus stinks."

Now that his longtime partner and fellow office inhabitant is leaving, Evers said he will miss his companion's sense of humor and joyous personality.

"I couldn't have asked for a better person as an associate and partner," Evers said. "He's a true friend and those are very hard to find."

Davoli had a "comforting presence" in their office which will be missed by the patients who continue to come in and ask how their friend is doing, Evers said. "He'll most likely miss the involvement in medicine because it does keep you young and focused, but we'll miss him here. He's a very special person."

Now that her husband has returned to her after more than 40 years of Saturday hours, house calls and long office hours, Jean Davoli said they won't feel obligated to fill their weekend hours with activities.

"We never expected to be so busy. We just don't seem to be able to find enough time in the day to do all the things we want," she said. "Life hasn't changed that much since he's cut back, but this will give us many more opportunities to travel and go to our beach house south of Colonial Beach," she said.

For the past six years, Dr. Davoli has been a mentor and father figure to Dr. Chau Lam.

"It's been nice to work with him because he knew so many patients and I've been able to get to know them through him," she said. "He taught me how important it is to talk with families when treating a patient and so much about how to approach a patient. It's been great to be able to observe him and Dr. Evers and study how to handle difficult situations with parents."

She will miss the wide variety of ties Davoli would wear to the office on special occasions and holidays, she said. "He would always greet me with a hug whenever I'd come into the office. I'll miss that."

Davoli wants his patents, past and current, to know that he has no intentions of leaving the area or his home in Vienna. "I married a local girl and we're staying here," he said.