Seeing Through Stone

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media , March 13, 2014
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This article appears in the March 2014 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

On weekend mornings, Robert C. Klapper, MD, chief of orthopedic surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Group in Los Angeles, heads to his sculpting studio in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Like a patient awaiting surgery, a block of marble sits in Klapper's studio to become a sculpture. For this surgeon, surgical instrument inventor, surfer, author, and host of the ESPN Radio program "Weekend Warrior," creativity and innovation define a successful medical practice.

On his waiting-room gallery: The first thing you see are highly complex sculptures. Pondering the technical ability to do that gives patients confidence that "If he can do that in stone, he can do that with my bones." But it also has a Zen effect on people, with that appreciation that our bodies are beautiful on the outside and inside. Being a sculptor, I have a tremendous appreciation for that beauty, and I think that adds to the doctor-patient relationship immensely.

On art and innovation: I enjoy my constant love of innovation and learning. In college I was premed, but I did it as an art history major. The ability to analyze painting and sculpture allowed my brain to be creative in all things I did. As I began my orthopedic training I began to question the difficult problems we had in the operating room and frustrating problems with complicated surgeries and tools we use, which is what led to my series of patented techniques and tools in this service line.

On surgical and artistic vision: It became clear in the beginning that I could see through the rock to the figure trapped within. To me it was analogous to—after thousands of surgeries—having that sixth sense to see through the skin to the pathology below. I enjoy sculpting the face and hands because I believe the most emotion is in those two areas, but I like to remind the viewer that this came from a solid block of stone. So I give it enough finish so that your brain can complete the sculpture, like a surgeon's sixth sense.

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This article appears in the March 2014 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Chelsea Rice is an associate editor for HealthLeaders Media.




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