Alumni Profile: Dr. Charles Rawlings (’02)

Dr. Charles Rawlings (’02) has plumbed the mysteries of the human brain, dived the ocean depths to photograph shells and fought for justice in medical malpractice cases. In his latest venture, he is writing a book that dissects male/female relationships.

“I wouldn’t say I get bored easily, but I would say I need to stay constantly stimulated,” he said. “I don’t accept the mundane. I don’t accept the everyday. What I’m looking for is the extraordinary.”

As a Wake Forest School of Law student, he found plenty of support for his wide-ranging interests and he believes that alumni should give generously to the school for a simple reason.

“They should support the law school for its intellectual curiosity and the fact that it promotes liberal, free thinking amongst their students,” he said.

Rawlings is the founder of the Rawlings Law Firm in Winston-Salem, which specializes in medical malpractice and business litigation. He received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Duke University and practiced neurosurgery until 2000. He was affiliated with Forsyth Hospital for most of his career.

Rawlings always knew he would become a lawyer. He felt that the stresses and physical demands of neurosurgery should limit the time one spends in that field.

As a neurosurgeon, Rawlings often offered expert testimony in medical malpractice cases and that served as a bridge between his two careers. And for him, neurosurgery became rote after a time.

“Time after time, it’s the same thing,” he said. “People talk about brain surgery being difficult. The law is much more intellectually stimulating.”

He chose the School of Law because he had a wife and young children in town and he didn’t want to uproot them to attend law school.

At the School of Law he found a small but supportive environment, with rich intellectual opportunities. He credits Prof. Rhoda Billings for teaching him how to use evidence to craft an effective narrative in the courtroom, and J. Wilson Parker for teaching him “The Law.”

By supporting the law school, he’s helping to keep that nurturing environment alive. Alumni should support the school, he said, so that it doesn’t have to take in 500 students.

In the law, he found an endlessly fascinating field that allows him to learn something every day.

“With the law, every new person who walks through the door has a totally different problem,” he said. “The facts are different. The person themselves is different. There’s a different story each time.”

He is also able to expand his medical knowledge as a lawyer, because he takes on cases that go beyond the neurosurgery field. But law and medicine only skim the surface of Rawlings’ many interests.

In the early 1980s, he became certified to dive. He had always collected shells, but he became fascinated by the opportunity to see them in their natural environment.

He began photographing shells on expeditions to Mozambique, Indonesia, New Guinea and the Philippines. He published the results in the book, Living Shells, in 2011. A second volume of shell photography will be published soon.

Rawlings latest exploration is a book about male-female relationships based on his experiences as a divorced man dating over the last few years.

“My friends would say, ‘Instead of talking about it, just go write a book,’” he said. “So I did.”