Like many of you, I suspect, I have enjoyed over the years watching the public television programs, “This Old House”and“The New Yankee Workshop.”
As I watched these master craftsmen at work, I fantasized of one day creating such fine pieces in my own woodwork shop, but like so many dreams, my little shop sits quietly unused on most days. One of our colleagues, however, saw the shows, had the inspiration and acted on it in a big way. But that is only one facet of the full life of Dr. Gregory P. Kwasny.
Dr. Kwasny was in solo practice for almost 40 years in Milwaukee, where he also taught ophthalmology residents at the Medical College of Wisconsin as a Clinical Professor. In addition, he has been active in the American Academy of Ophthalmology, serving as Secretary for Federal Affairs and as a member of the Health Policy Committee. More recently, he has represented the Academy on the American Medical Association Relative Value Update Committee. He was the recipient of the Academy’s Outstanding Advocate Award in 2017, along with many other local and national honors.
After “retiring” from his practice in 2012, he and his wife moved to St. Louis to be near two of their children and six grandchildren. But his passion for ophthalmology prevailed, and he went back to part-time practice until a retinal detachment in 2015 caused him to retire from ophthalmology again.
Throughout his career, Dr. Kwasny explored many other pleasures of life, in addition to enjoying his family. In fact, it was during medical school that he became active in aviation, an interest that he continued to pursue until recently.
Fortunately, the visual outcome of his retinal detachment surgery (a buckle, three vitrectomies and cataract extraction) was good, and he has returned to flying for Wings of Hope, a nonprofit organization that flies patients to and from medical care in St. Louis.
It was actually at his wife’s suggestion that he find a hobby that did not involve flying that caused Dr. Kwasny to begin watching some fix-it TV programs. Inspired by what he saw, he bought some tools and signed up for a couple of woodworking classes at a local hardware store. One thing led to another, and he began taking on more challenging projects. Soon he was making furniture for friends and family and a few custom projects for an interior design friend. He uses mostly domestic, locally available wood, which in the Midwest is primarily maple, walnut, butternut and some mahogany, with more exotic woods for detail work. For his cabinetry he uses a lot of veneer plywood, because it is more stable, lighter and stronger than hardwood and can be obtained with one side factory finished. A look at some of his work in the pictures on these pages speaks louder than words about the quality of his craftsmanship.
Dr. Kwasny did not forget about his ophthalmic heritage as he pursued his interest in woodwork. At one point, he suggested to the Academy Public Relations Committee that Norm Abram, of “This Old House” and “The New Yankee Workshop” be given an award for promoting eye safety on their programs. The Academy did this in 2007, and it became the precursor for the Academy’s EyeSmart program.
It has been about 18 years since Dr. Kwasny started woodworking, and today he spends three to four days a week in his workshop. His is an example of how other interests blend so well with a career in ophthalmology and how “retirement” from our practice does not have to mean the end of a productive and interesting life.