A newsmaker you should know: Doctor rediscovers interest in music
Leo McCafferty admits that it may seem odd what he did on Sept. 11, 2001.
Like many physicians, Dr. McCafferty, a plastic surgeon, was put on call that day when authorities learned that one of the planes that had been hijacked by terrorists was flying near Pittsburgh.
"We were put on alert," Dr. McCafferty, of Mt. Lebanon, recalled. "But then it became clear there were no survivors and no additional attacks."
All elective surgery was canceled for the day, so Dr. McCafferty left the hospital early and, for no real reason, he stopped at a music store that he had passed every day.
And he bought a guitar -- something he had wanted to do for a long time.
The purchase led him to start collecting guitars and to form a band called the Ducks.
Dr. McCafferty, 59, wasn't starting from scratch with music. As a child, he had played the violin, and his grandmother was a concert pianist.
When he decided to learn how to play guitar, his friend, Pittsburgh musician Frank Capelli, offered to help.
Eventually, the two put together the band, which includes three other musicians.
In addition to his love of music, the scientist in him became fascinated with how guitars are made.
It was the same curiosity that was behind his early interest in becoming a doctor.
"We had a doctor who actually made house calls when I was a child, and I was just so interested in what he was doing," Dr. McCafferty recalled. "He was always dressed so nice and carried a bag of intriguing things."
Dr. McCafferty asked for a children's book about anatomy and showed it to his pediatrician when he came to make house calls.
"I think he was amused by it, but he would always look at it with me," Dr. McCafferty said.
Dr. McCafferty decided he would be a pediatrician, too.
As a young medical student, the class was shown a photo of a child who had had surgery to repair wounds from a dog attack.
"I thought that I could take care of kids by going into plastic surgery," he said.
He did his residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angles and completed his plastic surgery training under Ralph Millard at the University of Miami, the plastic surgeon known for developing surgical techniques for cleft palates.
After completing his studies and residency, Dr. McCafferty worked in a hospital until he returned to Pittsburgh in 1990 to open his own practice.
Since his medical practice involves a lot of travel, Dr. McCafferty has been able to add to his guitar collection by shopping at guitar stores in numerous cities. He also does research on the Internet.
With a total of 59 guitars, Dr. McCafferty has several unique finds, including instruments signed by Paul McCartney; Crosby, Stills and Young; and Glen Campbell.
He also has had guitars custom-made by Martin Guitar of Nazareth, Pa.
He keeps his guitar collection in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room.
"I learned my lesson the hard way after one of my first Martins cracked [from lack of humidity control]," he explained.
"I play them all and I rotate them," he said of his guitars. "I try to play every day -- even if it is only for 20 minutes."
In addition to performing with the Ducks, he played at his son's wedding, accompanied by his daughter, Kristin. Another daughter, Kelly, also performs, often writing her own songs.
His medical practice and other obligations tied to his career -- including serving as the first president from Pennsylvania of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery -- keep him busy, but Dr. McCafferty finds time to play with the Ducks.
"It is really a lot of fun when we get the chance to play together," he said.
First Published January 3, 2013 5:02 am