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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


Area journalist goes from reporting to participating

John Ogle

John Ogle

School of Medicine students sometimes get a surprise when they hear one of their standardized patients describing his conditions. If the voice sounds familiar, it’s because it belongs to veteran broadcast journalist John Ogle, a frequently heard contributor on WCVE-FM.

Ogle joined the cast of the School of Medicine’s Standardized Patient Program in 2013, inspired after recording a news story on the program for the Richmond-based radio station.

“I’ve interviewed a lot of researchers at VCU, but I didn’t know what to expect when I went there to do the story,” said Ogle. “We went through the new McGlothlin Medical Education Center building, seeing one amazing thing after another.”

One program in particular caught his attention.

Medical students in the Center for Human Simulation and Patient Safety were working with standardized patients, learning to diagnose various conditions and to develop physician-patient relationships. The Standardized Patient Program, a collaboration between VCU’s School of Medicine and School of the Arts, allows students a chance to conduct a physicians’ traditional interview, history and physical. For the actors who play the parts of patients, it’s a chance for paid work and, more importantly, a chance to help the next generation of physicians.

After he completed his story about the program, Ogle decided to try to be part of the news-making program himself, so he applied to be a standardized patient. After several training sessions, he joined the program and now fits in sessions around his journalism schedule. He’s learned a lot about medicine as he’s portrayed a variety of patients.

“I’ve been the chest pain guy. I’ve been the spitting up blood guy. It’s really interesting work,” said Ogle.

“It’s fascinating to work with M1s who are young, and then the M4s who are about to be doctors – and they really do look like and act like them. There’s a certain demeanor they gain over the years. They’re very committed and focused on what they’ve chosen to do.

“The students are often thanking standardized patients for doing this” Ogle said. “But I’m finding that it’s rewarding for me, too. The quality of the work that’s done to get these students to be doctors is a reward I didn’t expect.”

Ogle, 70, considered a career as an actor when he was younger, and is enjoying being back on stage – even if the stage now is an examination room. “It’s a little bit like doing the news. The only difference is that I don’t have to memorize the news. But when you get to be my age, a lot of these ailments are familiar anyway.”

It’s also fun when the occasional student recognizes his name and voice. “It’s pointless to deny it. A lot of the students do happen to be public radio listeners.”

– By Lisa Crutchfield


Newspaper profiles life and times of Surgery’s Szabolcs Szentpetery


Szabolcs Szentpetery, M.D.

The front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s March 10 Health section featured Szabolcs Szentpetery, H’75.

The story describes the life and career of the Hungarian native who emigrated to the U.S. in 1965. He’d been training at MCV for only about a year when he was drafted to Vietnam, where he worked at one of the war’s busiest evacuation hospitals. The experience convinced him to dedicate most of his career to serving veterans, he told the Times-Dispatch.

The newspaper story also details his return to America and his connection with heart transplant pioneer Richard Lower, M.D., that grew into Szentpetery starting the heart transplant program at the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“Saint Pete” or “Saint Peter,” as he’s sometimes called by his patients, estimates he’s performed more than 300 transplants – the majority at McGuire. Read more about his 30-year career in the Times-Dispatch story, Pioneering heart surgeon dedicated to care of veterans.