real doctors, real people - John Steege

Dr. John Steege, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UNC and Director of the Division of Advanced Laparoscopy and Pelvic Pain, is learning to use his skilled surgeon's hands in a different way: traditional woodworking.

real doctors, real people - John Steege click to enlarge Dr. John Steege in the woodworking shop.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Written by Nathan Clendenin for UNC Health Care

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - There's no doubt in my mind that what doctors know about the human body, disease and medicine, and what surgeons can do with their hands using highly specialized tools and equipment is way, way beyond me.  I get the feeling that even if I had the patience, time and money to go to medical school, go through residency and the whole nine yards, I still wouldn't make it. There’s a high probability that I wouldn’t even get into medical school in the first place!  Where am I going with this, you might wonder?

Well, that sense of awe and respect I feel when I meet a talented physician isn't something I generally experience when I look at a wooden dresser, a jewelry box or a cabinet.  Instead I think to myself, "I could probably do that." But what I learned this month from Dr. John Steege, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of the Division of Advanced Laparoscopy and Pelvic Pain, was a much deeper respect for wood workers.

I spent an afternoon with Steege during a course on traditional woodworking at the Woodwright's School on Main Street in Pittsboro, NC.  He, along with other students, learned the art of cutting, shaving, dovetailing and in general, working with only non-electric tools, some of them more than 100 years old.  What I witnessed and heard, is that wood isn't a very forgiving medium with which to work. Precision is crucial, and mistakes are hard to correct. Yet for Steege, someone who has spent his entire life practicing and perfecting the art of surgery, the challenge of perfecting a completely different art form like woodworking seems like a natural fit.

Maybe after watching this month's real doctor, real people video you too will look differently at that wooden door, or wooden dresser or even that wooden table.  Perhaps you too will begin to appreciate the precision and expertise that went into every detail of their creation.

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