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Collection of “Star Wars” Legos makes sure the force stays with child psychiatrist Yasas Tanguturi

Why are they at his office? "One, I ran out of space, and two, my wife doesn’t want them at home.”

by May 4, 2022

For as long as he can remember, Yasas Tanguturi, MD, has enjoyed working with his hands – especially building things. And even more precisely, building things that don’t have written instructions.

Picture Ikea furniture and Legos.

In fact, picture lots of Legos.

On the shelf of his office at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital he has a collection of nearly 20 Lego sets — unusual décor for a medical setting but here for a very good reason.

Yasas Tanguturi

“This is just part of my collection,” said Tanguturi,  assistant professor of Child Psychiatry at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and associate medical director of Vanderbilt Behavioral Health, “I brought them here after our baby was born. One, I ran out of space, and two, my wife doesn’t want them at home.”

But he sees a connection between his work and his collection. The task of correctly putting the pieces together relies on patience, coping skills and focus. All three are essential in his work as a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

The crown jewel of his collection is a “Star Wars” Millennium Falcon version that is made up of 1,353 pieces. It took him 10 hours to build.

That sounds complex enough for anybody, but he notes there is a larger Millennium Falcon that has 7,541 pieces. It is a part of Legos’ Ultimate Collector Series (UCS).

“I don’t have any UCS sets yet,” he said. “Maybe one day.”

Still, the Millennium Falcon model Tanguturi completed is one of the all-time favorites of “Star Wars” fans.

“Over the years I have restricted myself to “Star Wars” – the majority in my office are “Star Wars,” but I have a few Batman sets at home. And not all of the sets I’ve purchased have been put together. I probably buy a couple every year.”

Tanguturi’s interest in collecting and building Legos began in graduate school. A Batman ship hung from the ceiling of the booth where he worked at the University of Texas at Austin.

The connection was made.

More of Tanguturi’s collection, including the Millennium Falcon (right) — all 1,353 pieces of it.

He admits that his creations are only for him to play with, but when he sees young patients on the unit, Legos are a typical item for play therapy. It’s one of the models that therapists use to engage patients.

“It helps when we are employing mindfulness techniques, wanting patients to sit, be relaxed and just talk or share. Perhaps that is why psychiatry appeals to me. It uses some of the same practices.”

He has also begun to incorporate special miniature figures into his collection. These only take minutes to complete.

While not keen on resale ventures, many of his sets have become collector’s items.

“It’s kind of a cool thing that Legos have a secondary resale value, but I’m not interested in the retail side of it. I like to build. That’s really the part that is fun for me.”

He is passing his enjoyment of building to his daughter, who enjoys playing with Lego Duplos, the larger, brightly colored blocks for children.

Tanguturi hopes she will become interested in the miniature sets as she grows older and can safely build with the smaller blocks. Smaller blocks are a choking hazard for small children.

For now, he ventures to Lego exhibits like the one held last year at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens that featured 38 sculptures made from more than 800,000 Lego bricks, enjoys attending expos hosted throughout the United States that display the incredible creations of master Lego builders and looks forward to the time when he can visit one of the Legoland theme parks located across the globe.

He even finds a bright side to the inevitable mistakes that are part of Lego construction.

“There are instances when I make a mistake, and I have to go back and rebuild an entire section over,” Tanguturi said.

“It can be frustrating at times, but I love it.”

No doubt one of the best doctors’ office displays this side of Tatooine.

Movies/TV, Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, psychiatry, Legos, Yasas Tanguturi