Steve Wohlgemuth, MD

by | Jan 18, 2024 | Uncategorized

Jewish News: Where were you educated?
Dr. Steve Wohlgemuth: I received my Bachelor of Science in biology from University of Connecticut in 1976. In 1979, I graduated from University of South Carolina with a master’s degree in marine biology. I then went to medical school at Tufts University School of Medicine and finished in 1983. I completed my surgical residency at EVMS, 1983-1988.

JN: What was your work history?
SW: I joined Norfolk Surgical Group in 1988 as a general surgeon; we joined Sentara Medical Group in the early 2000’s. I started doing bariatric surgery in 2000 and pretty much performed bariatrics exclusively since 2010.

I started Sentara Comprehensive Weight Loss Solutions in 2003 and was medical director until retirement at the end of 2018.

JN: When did you retire?
SW: December 31, 2019. I had just turned 64.

JN: What convinced you to take the leap?
SW: I’ve always felt surgeons are like athletes. Our work is physically demanding, and, at some point, your skills are going to diminish. My father, a plastic surgeon, told me that, as a surgeon, you are better off retiring five years too soon as opposed to five minutes too late. I wanted to retire before my skills deteriorated. I wanted to go out as the best surgeon I could be.

JN: Did you have a plan for what you would do with your time?
SW: I have been interested in woodworking since I took shop as a kid. I built two wooden kayaks in my 30s and took a woodturning class at the Hermitage Museum about 25 years ago. I fell in love with turning and took some classes. I was pretty concerned about any possible hand injuries, so it wasn’t until my mid 50s that I really started to turn consistently. I started my business, WoogWorks, in 2015, with a simple website. After I retired, I hired a media consultant who redid my website and made it possible to sell products off the website. I’ve since gotten an Instagram page as well as an Etsy shop.

JN: Where do you volunteer?
SW: When I was practicing, I was on the boards of Ohef Sholom, Lee’s Friends and Norfolk Collegiate.

Since retiring, I have not done much volunteering, as I’m plenty busy with twin grandsons who live locally.

JN: Do you have any days just to relax? If so, what do you do?
SW: I do Pilates twice a week, physical therapy once a week, and play golf at least once a week. On those days when I don’t have any appointments or commitments, I’m usually in the shop working on orders or just playing around with some new ideas.

JN: What about travel?
SW: I do enjoy traveling but am also very content to be home. I just got back from a 2 ½- week trip to South Africa. Since being there, I am very excited to start doing some more wildlife and nature photography. I’m trying to go to new places. Future trips are going to be the Galapagos Islands, the Far East, and the Middle East when things calm down.

I also go to several woodworking shows each year and have had the opportunity to give some talks at these meetings.

JN: In general, are you glad you retired? Do you ever miss working?
SW: I absolutely loved my career and loved it until the day I retired. Having said that, the only thing I miss are some of the people who were integral to my success.

I didn’t realize how stressful my day-to-day life was until I stopped. It was such a weight off my shoulders to no longer worry about patients. I still get to use my hands in my woodworking.

The bottom line is I am very, very happy retired.

JN: Do you feel any healthier or less stressed?
SW: Yes and yes. I didn’t realize how sleep deprived I was from 35 years of taking call.

JN: Do you have any advice for someone considering retirement?
SW: Absolutely, you need to actively prepare for retirement. You need a number of hobbies or passions to fill your days. I very carefully planned my increasing interest and involvement with woodworking to coincide with my retirement.

JN: Last comments?
SW: I am also very fortunate that, within eight months of my retirement, I had three grandchildren and now have four: twin boys who live in Norfolk and two granddaughters who live on the west coast. Being a grandparent is one of life’s greatest blessings. It’s one of the few things in life that isn’t over rated.

People tell me I’m lucky to have woodworking to keep me busy, but there is no luck involved. It was an interest that I cultivated into a passion. You can’t wait till you retire to try and figure out what to do with the rest of your life. I have thought about this a lot, and, last year, I gave a grand rounds to the Department of Surgery at EVMS on how to retire successfully.