Dr. Meredith Osterman and her father, Dr. A. Lee Osterman//photography by tessa marie images
The Ostermans in action at Crozer-Keystone Surgery Center
What it would mean for Meredith Osterman to follow in her dad’s footsteps wasn’t immediately clear. Sharing his name could work for her or against her. In truth, she was hoping it would have no impact at all.
Meredith wanted to land a spot in the best residency program and train with the best hand surgeons in the country. That meant being at Jefferson and working at the Philadelphia Hand Center.
“Of course, everyone knew who I was right off the bat,” she says. “But I’d say the person who put the most pressure on me was me.”
Meredith says she wanted to “erase any inkling of nepotism and prove that I’d accomplished things on my own and that I deserved to be there—and not just because I was Lee Osterman’s daughter.”
That was just fine with her father. “I didn’t make any phone calls for Meredith or give her any help at all,” he says. “Did my colleagues treat her differently? If they did, it wasn’t to her advantage. They didn’t cut her any slack. On the contrary, I think they expected more of her.”
Upon completion of her training, Meredith fielded offers to join several prestigious practices. “One of the greatest compliments I got was that I never rested on my laurels. I was independent of my last name.”
That’s why she was comfortable joining the best practice she knew: her father’s. In 2014, Meredith became an official member of the Crozer-Keystone/Philadelphia Hand Center Partnership. The Ostermans perform their surgeries in adjoining operating rooms at the practice’s various locations, including the Crozer-Keystone Surgery Centers at Haverford and Brinton Lake in Glen Mills.
What’s it like working together? Both Ostermans describe it as sort of a hybrid parent-child/physician-physician relationship. “Hand surgeons have different ways of doing things that, generally speaking, are more conservative or less conservative,” says Lee. “Meredith’s background is more conservative and favors fusions over joint replacements. Mine is the opposite. We agree to disagree.”
Meredith concurs. “We have different ways of working as physicians and surgeons,” she says. “For example, we often sit while we do surgery. At one point, I decided it was easier for me to stand, so I did. He kept telling me to sit. He finally said, ‘It’s like when I was teaching you to drive!’ It was that level of frustration. But, of course, I didn’t sit.”
There’s little sitting even when Meredith isn’t working. She’s a wife and a mother to two small children. Her father is as proud of her family life as he is of her career, and he certainly recognizes the challenges Meredith faces in juggling those roles. “Surgeons have a more difficult time—and so do women,” he says. “But Meredith has been on target about how to balance that.”
Then Lee turns more philosophical.
“Gloria Steinem said that you can have it all, and I think that’s been proven not to be so easy,” he says. “What thrills me is the joy Meredith has in her children and in her work. She’s happy. What more could I want for her?”