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School of Medicine discoveries

April 2, 2014

From the operating room to tiny table saws

David Chelmow, M.D.

Chelmow’s latest completed model is that of an American privateer built in 1780 in Plymouth, Mass. Click the image above to view in more detail.

David Chelmow, M.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, likes working with his hands. That may come as no surprise for a surgeon, especially one with a focus on wound closure and the prevention of wound complications. But Chelmow puts his dexterity to use outside of work as well – building model ships.

“I love operating, but it’s nice to work on models because I don’t have to worry about pain control and bleeding,” he explains. “It’s much more relaxing!”

Chelmow grew up making plastic models. He continued the hobby until his college years and moved to wooden models after his father once gave him an extra kit.

Today, he works primarily in wood and often mills his own with a tiny table saw.

An interest in ships and history, he says, is a great combination for modeling. Each of Chelmow’s projects takes between four and five years to complete. The latest completed model is that of an American privateer built in 1780 in Plymouth, Mass.

“It was very successful capturing British ships until it was captured by the British in 1783. The British were good about making plans of captured vessels, so the only early American ships we can model accurately tend to be the ones that were captured. The model started as a kit, but the only parts I used were the frame and a few of the castings, gun barrels and anchors in particular. I replaced everything else including the wood, which is boxwood, Swiss pear, holly, ebony and cherry.”

David Chelmow, M.D.

Chelmow’s current project, the schooner Hannah, is a replica of the first armed commission for the Continental Army. Click the image above to view in more detail.

His current project, the schooner Hannah, is a replica of the first armed commission for the Continental Army.

“She was the first schooner purchased by George Washington. It’s the right complexity for me. The next one may be a bit more ambitious. I only do one project at a time, and leave multitasking for work.”

Finding time for his varied interests is par for the course for the Leo J. Dunn Distinguished Professor who led drafting of ACOG’s cervical cancer screening guidelines issued in 2012.

“It’s been a busy few years. I’ve helped start a national organization for academic generalist OB/GYNs and am finishing my term as the group’s first president,” he said.

“Two of my VCU colleagues and I have edited a book about to be published. I’ll have more time in the coming months.”

No doubt he’ll spend part of this extra time working with wood and very tiny table saws.

— By Nan Johnson