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All in the family in Arlington, Va.

Sept. 1, 2005
It’s truly a family affair at the office of Drs. Louis and Greg LaVecchia in Arlington, Va.

By Kevin Henry, Editor. Cover and story photos by Ingrid Williams

It’s truly a family affair at the office of Drs. Louis and Greg LaVecchia in Arlington, Va. Not only do the father and son practice dentistry together, but the office also houses a mother-daughter dental assistant team with Elisabetta (mother) and Silvia Gaetano.

While the four may be the blood relatives who work in the practice, Elisabetta believes the family atmosphere extends much further.

“When I first started working here, it was just me, Vikki (McGrath), and Dr. (Louis) LaVecchia,” recalled Elisabetta, who has worked at the practice since 1992. “Then, it was the three of us working as family. Now our family just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

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The “extended family” now includes six staff members and two doctors on the fifth floor of an office building located just two blocks from the Rosslyn (Va.) Metro station. With the Washington, D.C., subway system not far away and Arlington and the Washington suburbs growing at an amazing pace, the Drs. LaVecchia have seen the practice blossom.

“Arlington has really changed over the last 10 years, turning from an area that maybe wasn’t so desirable into a very desirable, highly professional area with condos,” Dr. Greg LaVecchia said. “I live no more than two miles away from the office and, on my way to work, I pass no less than five cranes working on building projects.”

The construction in Arlington parallels the boom that has happened in the LaVecchia office over the last decade. Dr. Louis LaVecchia has been in the location since July 1, 1971, and Dr. Greg joined the practice in 2002. When the son joined the practice, the office focus changed.

“We now offer more services. Dad was very focused on crown and bridge, and we’ve gone more comprehensive over the last three years,” Dr. Greg said. “We’ve also taken leaps and bounds to improve the technology in the practice. It’s always a little bit of a struggle, but the staff has really worked hard to learn the technology and incorporate it into the mix.

Front row (from left to right): Silvia Gaetano, Vikki McGrath, and Elisabetta Gaetano. Second row: Britain Blakeslee and Monica Butron. Third row: Angelika Hyrman, Dr. Greg LaVecchia, and Dr. Louis LaVecchia.
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“I’ve really been proud of the staff,” he continued. “When I came in, there were some philosophical changes. The staff has been very willing to move the practice in a different direction. Everyone dedicated themselves to the changes and improving the practice on a daily basis.”

Drs. Louis and Greg are quick to praise the staff members, many of whom have been with the practice from five to 25 years. Both credit the staff members as a key to the practice’s success.

“We treat the staff members as equals, not employees,” Dr. Louis said. “They are given the opportunity to exercise their own judgment. It’s so nice to hear them refer to the practice as ‘their practice.’ That’s how we want them to feel about it.”

Talking to staff members, it’s easy to see they take ownership in the practice ... and they enjoy that freedom.

“I feel like this is my practice as well,” Elisabetta said. “I want to put the best of myself into this practice, and we all do our best to make our patients happy. It’s very rewarding to see a patient walk out of the practice happy with the treatment.”

The family atmosphere adds to the practice for both the employees and patients. It also presents its challenges at times.

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“Dad and I have never been closer,” Dr. Greg smiled. “It’s like we’re making our Pinewood Derby car again. We’re business partners, but we’re also father and son. We’re also two Italian males, so we definitely have our own opinions. People ask me what it’s like to work with him and I just look at them and ask, ‘What would it be like for you to work with your father?’ However, the familiarity and the comfort level are positives for both of us. We can work a full week, then go home and have dinner together on the weekends.”

Elisabetta also sees the positive of working with a family member, with the daily operations of the practice giving her a chance to see another side of her daughter.

“I’m thankful I have the opportunity to work with her,” Elisabetta beamed. “It gives me the opportunity to be around her and see how she works as an adult. We are open with each other and free to do whatever we want to help the practice improve.”

The improvement of the practice relates directly to the office’s internal attitude, according to Dr. Greg.

“I believe you have to develop friendships and relationships in the office, between doctor and staff and between staff members,” he said. “Everyone has to work well together. If we’re going to build and improve the practice, we have to do it together.”