Dr. Flemmer in the driver's seat

Under the bonnet

EVMS internist is a one-man repair shop

On campus, Mark Flemmer, MD, Professor of Internal Medicine, cares for patients in the office and hospital. Off campus, the South African native trades his pristine white coat for grease-stained overalls as he heads to his home garage. Whether he’s treating patients or fixing cars, Dr. Flemmer enjoys solving problems.

Dr. Flemmer

Tips for a healthy bodyhealthy body

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Exercise regularly
  • Strive for equilibrium and reduce unnecessary pressure

Tips for a healthy carhealthy car

  • Change fluids regularly
  • Exercise extreme caution while driving in the presence of texting
  • Balance tires annually and keep them well inflated

What do you enjoy about working on cars?

I like mechanisms, and I especially like mechanisms that are broken. I also like working on watches and clocks. Anything that’s broken I like to try to fix. It’s so exciting to repair something that hasn’t gone forever.

What sort of cars do you prefer?

When I hear someone say he’s getting rid of a car, I get excited because that’s the type of car I want. I don’t buy good cars. I buy cars that don’t go and are rusted and the engines are seized up. I have dealt mostly with Jaguars, English cars and English motorbikes. I also like German engineering. I think I’ve had almost every make of car.

Are there lessons learned in the garage that carry into medicine?

The first car I got I was 12 years old. The engine was in the back seat, and my father prohibited any of my brothers from helping me fix it. I have been working on cars ever since, not asking for help. I sort of have this same mindset when I work on a patient. I try to puzzle things out as if I were the only person there, and I try to teach the residents this. I also like doing my own procedures. It’s always good to be reasonably self-sufficient.

What are key differences between your career and hobby?

You often get lucky working with patients because they might get healthy despite you. A car will never heal on its own.

Are there other aspects of your hobby that you enjoy?

When you’ve worked on a lot of cars — over 50 years in my case — you can export emotions down the years. I remember my first Jag when I was 17, and my father had me do exactly the same job that I did 50 years later. It’s almost a sort of diary that can connect the future and the past.