An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Luis Villar
Since he was a child, Doctor Luis Villar has enjoyed building things.
“I have always loved engineering, but my gifts were in biology and science,” said Villar, a board certified plastic surgeon in Stuart who has served Treasure Coast patients since 1982. “There is a logic to medicine and surgery that appeal to me, and I am fortunate to have a career that lets me help people.”
Restoring vintage aircraft
In addition to his surgical “engineering,” Villar has put his talents to work restoring vintage aircraft in a hangar at Witham Field in Stuart and has built a sizeable collection of military memorabilia, focusing on World War II with items dating back to the Spanish American War in 1898.
“I’m usually out there on weekends building planes,” he said, adding that his collection was on display at the Stuart Air Show on Nov. 2-3. “I also take videos of the construction process as I want to get the younger generation interested in preserving the past.”
Born in 1947 in New York City, Villar enjoyed building models and completing science projects with his father, Luis Sr., a design engineer who did projects for the government.
“As a child, I would take everything in the house apart to see how it worked,” Villar said. “When I was a surgical resident, I could easily visualize myself doing the procedure, and notice things like how to turn the wrist. That quality really helped me develop more efficient surgical techniques.”
Loves to work
Villar trained in general surgery and plastic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Nassau County Medical Center in New York in the 1970s in what he calls “the golden age of medicine.” At Massachusetts General, residents were on call for 36 hours and off for 12 hours.
“I couldn’t wait for those 12 hours to end so I could get back to work,” he said. “I was a sponge for knowledge.”
Villar also trained at a shock trauma unit in Baltimore, and completed a fellowship in shock trauma at Boston City Hospital, winding up with eight years of surgical residency training rather than the usual five to seven.
In 1979, Villar took a break from medicine, and spent a year sailing the Caribbean with a college friend. That was long before the introduction of GPS systems, so Villar used a $69 plastic sextant for navigation.
After his sabbatical, Villar sold the sailboat and decided to stay in Florida. He spent a year in Fort Pierce and then came to Stuart where he has practiced ever since.
A fellow of the American College of Surgeons, he is on the staff at Martin Memorial Hospital and personally attends to all pre-operative and post-operative care.
Meanwhile, Villar took flying lessons and purchased a Stearman biplane, which was the primary training aircraft for the U.S. military during World War II. He also began collecting parts and learning how to build aircraft like the P-51 Mustang, a fast and maneuverable WWII fighter.
While Hurricane Wilma destroyed Villar’s vintage biplane in 2005, the rest of Villar’s collection made it safely through the storm. Now, Villar stays busy building three Stearmans in a new hangar at Witham Field. “I didn’t think about planes until my 40s, but this is a labor of love for me,” he said. “With these aircraft — and with my practice — I can’t wait to get up every day and discover something new.”
Original article by Richard Westlund for Progress & Innovation. A publication of Scripps Media.