January 2019


Outside the OR
Ophthalmologist shares interests in furniture making and martial arts

by Ellen Stodola EyeWorld Senior Staff Writer/Digital Editor

A Sheraton secretary/bookcase with glass doors that Dr. Stallman made using several different woods (mahogany, white pine, and polar). The piece also includes glass and embellishments added by Dr. Stallman.

Dr. Stallman poses with a clock of his own design (in the Newport style). He used both walnut wood and pine.

Dr. Stallman practices aikido, a Japanese martial art, which focuses on throwing, pinning, and controlling, rather than punching or kicking.
Source (all): Jay Stallman, MD


Dr. Stallman has cultivated hobbies of woodworking and aikido over the years

When he’s not working at his busy retina practice, Jay Stallman, MD, Georgia Retina, Lawrenceville, Georgia, uses his free time to pursue a number of different hobbies. He spoke to EyeWorld about creating furniture and the Japanese martial art aikido, which are two areas of interest that he has been involved in for many years.


Dr. Stallman’s interest in woodworking began as a child. “I think I had a natural tendency to like doing things with my hands,” he said, noting that there is an overlap of some of the same aptitudes and interests that lead people to do surgery.
“It’s something that I gradually got into from the time I was 7 or 8 years old,” he said. “I started playing with wood and tools and got progressively more interested.”
Eventually, Dr. Stallman became involved in the Society of American Period Furniture Makers. This organization meets a couple of times a year and has outside speakers and workshops. It focuses on the mechanics of doing the woodwork and in particular building American period furniture, which is typically 18th century furniture from around the Revolutionary period, he said. This historically focused group looks at different styles and trends, what was going on in the colonies, and the different tools used at that time.
Much of Dr. Stallman’s woodworking is with hand tools. Though he uses some machines, he primarily works with hand tools including antique tools he has refurbished. The details of the furniture from that period are very intricate and involve a lot of hand carving and inlay work, Dr. Stallman said. “For someone who does retinal surgery, it’s some of the same personality traits that attract me to one that are consistent with the other.” The furniture making requires a lot of attention to detail and meticulous work, as does retinal surgery, he added.
“The surfaces of furniture made by hand have a certain texture and qualities that are distinctly different from machine-made pieces,” he said, and if you’re aware of the
details and furniture-making process, you can tell the difference. Dr. Stallman added that in the time these pieces were originally made, it often wasn’t one person who would make the whole piece. There were specialists in different areas. As people had to make a living from it, they had to produce things efficiently in order to make money. “But as a hobbyist, I’m trying to learn all of these skills and do everything from start to finish,” he said.
Working mostly on weekends or in the evenings, it could take Dr. Stallman from 6 to 9 months or even more than a year to finish a piece. Most of his finished pieces are featured in his home, though he has given some to family or friends.


Dr. Stallman also enjoys practicing aikido, the Japanese martial art, in his free time. This interest goes back to Dr. Stallman’s internship in medicine when he began doing karate. He transitioned to aikido after about 5–7 years of practicing karate.
Aikido is focused on cooperative practice, where techniques are demonstrated, and you pair up with someone and practice techniques to try to help each other improve, as opposed to it being a competition, Dr. Stallman said. There are no tournaments, competitions, or colored belts. “Everyone is a white belt until they become a black belt, and it typically takes 5–7 years to get the first-degree black belt,” he said. This is a marker that the person has enough of a foundation to begin to learn more seriously, not as an expert but as a serious student. Dr. Stallman is currently a sixth-degree black belt but noted that there are “always more nuances and subtleties to appreciate and develop.” It’s another one of those long-term pursuits that takes many years to master, he said. “The more you learn, the more you realize how much you didn’t know.” This, he said, is true for both woodworking and martial arts.
Aikido utilizes a person’s energy or momentum to take their balance and redirect their energy, which results in throwing, pinning, or controlling, however, it doesn’t emphasize punching or kicking. Aikido is about feeling someone else’s balance, and there is a lot of sensitivity involved. It’s different for each person you practice with, he said.
With aikido, Dr. Stallman has had the opportunity to travel to a number of countries and attend seminars and do some teaching. “It provides this immediate connection with people that you wouldn’t normally have,” he said. He also teaches a regular class at Peachtree Aikikai in Atlanta.
In addition, Dr. Stallman has interests in photography and fly fishing, and he does all of these while practice ophthalmology full time.
He noted the similarities in his hobbies of woodworking and aikido and ophthalmology in that it takes many years to develop a certain level of proficiency. Though you can dabble in any number of interests, Dr. Stallman said he gets much more out of something when he can delve into it in greater depth.

Contact information

Stallman: jstallman@garetina.com

Ophthalmologist shares interests in furniture making and martial arts Ophthalmologist shares interests in furniture making and martial arts
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