At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.



I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.



I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.


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I reviewed the Marc Adams Woodworking website, and it is quite interesting. There are multiple pictures posted of attendees and their work products. Adams has taught 33,000 attendees since he developed his school 25 years ago. He encourages alumni of the school to come back and assist in teaching to further their skills, not unlike the old medical adage of “learn one, do one, teach one.”

On-the-other-hand, David Bensema, M.D. followed an entirely different path to woodworking than did Bill Wheeler, M.D.  David first became interested in woodworking at about age 14.  He made shadowboxes at that time. He saved his money from their sales and he began to buy woodworking equipment. When he began making shadowboxes, he had only a miter box and various saws for tools. His father built the miter box for him. As he began to acquire more woodworking equipment, his skills improved. He continued woodworking when he went to college. Like many college students, he had little extra money, so he made most of the gifts that he gave to family members and others.

After David completed his residency and entered the practice of internal medicine, he and his wife Marian, built a home. During garage construction, he noted that the footprint of the garage was quite large. He asked the construction contractor if it would be possible to put a basement under the garage. The contractor agreed that it would not be a problem, and David now has a 28’ x 28’ woodworking shop under his garage.

David has since added lathes, and he has also incorporated a professional dust collector system. He finds the hobby of woodworking to be extremely stress reducing. He works with earmuffs to protect his hearing, and a mask to protect his eyes and keep dust out of the nose. He finds the sensory deprivation to be quite calming to him as he works. He has made chests of drawers for six nieces, and he has also built other forms of chests for nephews to store items of interest to them.

I asked David to describe what he thinks is one of the greatest benefits from his woodworking hobby. He advised me that not only is it calming, but it provides an immediate emotional return to the woodworker. Within minutes, one is able to see the product of one’s handiwork and within only a few days, a piece of furniture is born. David pointed out to me that many physicians, such as myself, have careers in which getting feedback about one’s success at treating a patient may take years. With furniture making, the feedback comes in only days.

It was obvious to me that both Bill and David thoroughly enjoy their chosen hobby. They have taken profound satisfaction from their work for many years, and they encourage any physician with a creative bent toward woodworking to pursue this hobby.

This quarterly edition of KentuckyDoc features LMS physicians and their hobbies. Two LMS members, William Wheeler M.D. and David Bensema, M.D., have chosen woodworking as a hobby. As with most physicians who choose hobbies, Bill and David came to their hobbies by different routes. When Bill Wheeler began thinking about retirement, while continuing his practice as an obstetrician/gynecologist, he decided to choose woodworking as a hobby. Being a surgeon, he was afraid of injuring his hands, so initially he avoided power tools. He built a shop behind his home. He gradually concluded about woodworking, “I need to learn how to do this.” Thus, he became heavily involved with Marc Adams Woodworking School in Franklin, Indiana ( As a companion to this article, there is a picture of Bill with Marc Adams while Bill was formerly studying at the woodworking school.

While practicing medicine, Bill based his woodworking shop in his garage. Working there helped him divert his mind from the stress and rigors of medical practice, and he believes his new hobby was instrumental in helping him avoid burnout. However, he had to clean up the garage extensively, move his equipment so the automobiles could be put in the garage, etcetera. This was some hindrance to the development of his woodworking hobby. Initially, Bill built mostly cabinets, detailed boxes, and furniture for his grandchildren. He now has a woodworking lathe that he acquired after his wife’s high school music teacher offered them the lathe and he has increased the numbers of other woodworking tools.  


I asked Bill what advice he would give physicians who were interested in woodworking. He suggested that physicians first take a basic class in woodworking as it is important to learn the functions of various woodworking tools. Then one can choose an area, be it cabinetmaking, furniture carving, making fine furniture, etcetera. It is important to formulate a plan such as how to do “X,” and then develop the plan with research or further education in woodworking.  Bill believes that Marc Adams Woodworking School has been instrumental in the development of his skills in woodworking. Another aid to him was the magazine subscription to Fine Woodworking (Taunton Press:) Over the years, he has attended woodworking classes on site in Franklin, Indiana. Classes tend to run from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. five days a week. Classes are also available for those who want to learn how to sell their products, and the “business of woodworking” is taught within the overall academic framework of the Marc Adams Woodworking School.

After retirement, a great benefit has been derived from the woodworking hobby he has pursued. He notes that it gives him something to do every day. Bill said, “one thing physicians will note immediately upon retirement is that there are a lot of hours in the day.”  


Robert P. Granacher, Jr., MD, MBA practices clinical and forensic neuropsychiaty in Lexington and Mt. Vernon, KY. He is a noted scientific author and past president of the Kentucky Psychiatric Medical Association. He is currently president-elect of the Lexington Medical Society and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.