“Clown Doctors”: Shamans of Western Medicine

In the article, “Clown Doctors in NYC,” we see how Dr. Winona Do-More and her friends are compared to Shamans. They are the “Healers” for children in New York City hospitals. On Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays of every week, Dr. Do-More and friends “dress up” to heal their patients through entertainment. They go throughout various children’s wards bringing cheer, joy, and laughter to their patients and families. Dr. Do-More, Dr. BoBo, and Dr. Fidget are with the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit. They are referred to as the “Shamans of Western Medicine” because they represent and bring a different type of healing to their young patients. This healing process includes things like body paint, costumes, magic tricks, singing, dancing, and allowing the patients, their families, and the medical staff to get involved in the “healing ritual” or entertainment. The “Clown Doctors” use instruments such as puppets to put on a show and brighten up their patients’ day. It is believed that if the mind is taken off of the negative, which is the sickness (i.e. Cancer) and put on the positive, an individual can start to feel better and may even be healed. Dr. Do-More and her friends are the Western, Modern Day Shamans, and it is a great benefit to have them available. This sort of “ritualistic” healing process, I believe is important because it brings peace and laughter and calmness to the patients and their families. They can take their minds off of the pain and suffering and the overwhelming experience of being in the hospital. Dr. Do-More and Friends always make sure that the patients are in control and that’s what makes the difference with this type of “healing.”


The “Clown Doctors” operate in the Professional and Folk Sector in the system of Biomedicine in the Western Culture of the United States. Healthcare in the United States is delivered mainly through the Professional Sector such as Primary Care Physicians, Hospitals, Clinics, etc. When a patient visits these facilities and medical professionals, they are examined, given medicine (usually synthetic, but can be herbal or therapeutic), and healthcare is sanctioned and governed by laws. However, this article is one example of how Western Medicine is becoming more inviting to the Shamanistic Healing culture. The body and symptoms are treated based on the evaluation by the Physician, testing and procedures (such as Colonoscopy), and the patient’s account of their illness and what they are feeling. The Professional Sector looks at the Individual Body (mind=body dualism) and the Social Body (Body as a Machine) to diagnose and treat sickness and illness.


In closing, I have to say that I am very impressed with this idea to have “Clown Doctors” as part of the treatment process for these children. Being a former employee of two major Children’s Hospitals, this is the best thing ever to bring joy into the hospital. Of course we all know that a child being ill is not an easy thing to deal with. However, a terminal illness is totally on a different level. Unless you are in the shoes of that family, you have no idea how much stress is induced. I have watched children being poked and prodded with needles all day long, X-rayed two and three times sometimes more a day, Cat Scans, MRIs, Nuclear Medicine Studies, Ultrasounds, Surgeries, numerous doctor visits, and the list can go on forever. It is an overwhelming, stressful time and it does take a toll on the patient and their family. I also cannot forget how much the medical staff suffers from being overwhelmed with watching and having to perform these tests and procedures on these patients. I believe that with another approach to healthcare such as the “Clown Doctors” as Shamans is what we need in hospitals all over the country. When you get everyone involved in the healing process (i.e. doctors, the clown doctors or other Shamans, family, friends, and other medical staff), I believe it can make a difference in the patient’s life. It starts to give them a sense of “feeling better” and not being sick. Through the power of togetherness and oneness and belief that the child or anyone can be healed is inevitable feat to overcome sickness and illness.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Dan Wright says:

    I thought you gave a very good summary of “Clown Doctors in NYC,” and I agree with many points you made. Since “clown doctors” are in huge contrast to what most of us usually experience in western (American) healthcare, it is easy for a first response to be skeptical, or to think that the clown doctors are not credible or legitimate. However, I agree that it is immeasurably important for these children and their families to be given some sort of comfort outside of the strictly physiological information a physician provides. With clown doctors, this comes in the form of entertainment. It’s amazing to me that frame of mind in a patient can actually make a physical difference in their well being; I wish I knew more on the mechanisms that correlate optimism and health. Like you, I am glad to see this form of healing arise more and more in western hospitals. Religion has been offered in United States’ hospitals for some time, usually as Christianity in the form of a chapel and a priest and this has been recognized as comforting to families and patients. In a similar way, I hope we see more holistic healing offered in western hospitals, whether it be through shamans or clowns.

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