As long as he can remember, Dr. Joshua Harris Wolf dreamed of becoming a physician. “Growing up, I watched how my dad practiced medicine, and I really admired it,” he recalls.
Today, Dr. Wolf, a colorectal surgeon, and his father, Dr. Edward J. Wolf, a gastroenterologist and founder of Woodholme Gastroenterology Associates, often share patients at Sinai Hospital.
“As I was doing my medical training, my father and I would speak about cases here and there, and it was very natural,” says the younger Dr. Wolf, 37, who works in Sinai’s colorectal surgery division. “It’s a wonderful experience to be working with him now. It’s easy for us to work together since we have been working together on all sorts of things throughout my life.”
Says his proud father: “Josh is an asset not only to this hospital system, but to the entire Baltimore community. … My group has been very pleased with Josh’s work and the way he cares for patients, and I am thrilled Josh has been able to take care of patients from our practice.”
Although a career in medicine was pretty much a foregone conclusion for him, Joshua says the path to colorectal surgery wasn’t so obvious. A Pikesville native, he started off his medical education with the goal of becoming a transplant surgeon.
He attended medical school at New York University and spent several post-medical school years conducting research for the National Institutes of Health. In 2008, he began his residency at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and decided to specialize in colorectal surgery.
“I like being able to solve problems technically and wanted to work on the abdomen,” Joshua says. “What I appreciate about colorectal surgery is the fact you have a wide variety in terms of procedures and patients’ ages, degree of illness and types of problems.”
After a fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic Florida, he and his wife, Dr. Risa Wolf, a pediatric endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and their three children returned in 2017 to Baltimore, where he accepted the position he currently holds at Sinai.
“Sinai Hospital is in my home community, has an outstanding colorectal department and a family-like vibe,” Joshua says. “That’s part of why I came back. But being able to work with my dad was also a big draw. Being able to share patients and work with my dad is a unique opportunity that not everyone has. I feel very fortunate that I do. … He’s so devoted to his patients and invested in his job. That is something I carry with me daily and hope I can emulate in my practice.”
Dr. Edward Wolf, 63, says he thoroughly enjoys working with his son. “I like to keep in touch with my patients, and when all is said and done, they seem grateful Josh and I are able to work together,” he says. “It’s been positive all the way around, and patients have expressed that to me as well.”
A native New Yorker, the elder Dr. Wolf moved to Baltimore in 1983 for a GI fellowship at Hopkins. In 1992, Woodholme Gastroenterology Associates, which was founded six years earlier, became one of three area practices to develop outpatient endoscopy centers.
“Before that, there was no such thing in Maryland,” Edward says. “Now, most colonoscopies and endoscopies are done in outpatient centers. We are happy we could create these through our practice.”
Christine DeAngelis, vice president of physician networks and value-based care programs at LifeBridge Health, notes that the Doctors Wolf aren’t the only father-and-son team in the system.
“I think it happens at LifeBridge more than [it does at] most places because Maryland has a great training program and is a state people like to stay in and physicians like to practice in,” says DeAngelis. “We have a handful of family members who work together, and it’s really nice to see how proud and respectful the parent physicians are of their children. Many have commented about how much they have learned from their own kids.”
Joshua says he looks forward to continuing to work with his dad.
“I feel lucky I can continue to learn from him in new ways and actually talk about cases where we are solving problems that lead to great outcomes for patients,” he says.
For his part, Edward says, “There is no greater feeling for a father than to have a son of his talent taking care of some of my patients. … You have dreams for your children when they are growing up, and this is exceeding them all. I can’t wait to watch Josh continue the excellent work he is doing and see the impact he makes on this community.”
Aliza Friedlander is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.