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Tara M. Tawil, M.D., sees certain similarities between practicing hospital medicine and building elaborate Lego structures.

Tara Tawil, M.D., says building elaborate Lego sets offers a welcome respite from the daily demands of her work as a hospitalist.

Dr. Tawil, who practices with LG Health Physicians Hospitalists, finds after-work stress relief in her basement, which is filled with Lego structures she collects and builds, including a 12-foot-long, 20,000-piece city block.

“Building Legos is very methodical, in a way like medicine,” she said. “If you don’t do each step correctly or you rush through something, you have to fix it later.”

As a University of Virginia student, Dr. Tawil worked in a factory, assembling and testing stereos. She found building to be surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable.

“A light bulb went on that maybe building things would be a good stress reliever once I started my medical career,” she said.

A native of Burke, Virginia, Dr. Tawil joined the Medical & Dental Staff in 2009. Despite the occasional frustration of building her first Lego set, a store complete with chandeliers and a billboard, her hobby quickly took off from there.

Dr. Tawil buys “expert” Lego sets – with no age range listed on the box – online. Some collectible sets can get pretty pricey, including a $700 hotel. Her collection also includes Big Ben, London Bridge, Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, several cars – and of course a hospital and ambulance.

“We have a massive collection at this point,” she said. “We’re still trying to figure out what to do with it. Most of the sets are too large and fragile to transport and display elsewhere.”

Building takes a lot of patience, she said, and it can still get tedious and frustrating at times. With Big Ben, she added one of the 4,500 pieces facing the wrong way. That small error forced her to deconstruct half of the set and start over.

Dr. Tawil’s husband, George Kraus, has built several Star Wars Lego sets. Their daughter, Lara, 5, likes to create simple Lego characters, while son Owen, 12, still builds but is now less prolific. (“I think he grew out of Legos and I didn’t,” she said.)

Dr. Tawil also enjoys challenging her brain with daily crossword puzzles and word jumbles. As college students, she and her husband played Scrabble competitively, which involved playing two or three games a day and memorizing two- and three-letter words, as well as “u-less” Q words.

She loves her fast-paced work as a hospitalist, especially getting to know patients and their families, and helping them through some of the most challenging parts of life. Even so, her Legos offer a welcome respite from daily demands. 

“It’s time to myself, and it’s the best stress relief,” she said. “It’s very satisfying when you finish something to say, ‘I built that.’ “


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