Clown Doctors in NYC

The article “Clown Doctors: Healers of Western Medicine” shows how clowns resemble shamans and traditional healers. Clowns are used in several hospitals across New York Cit. The Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit works hand and hand with medial physicians providing entertainment for children and families. The “treatment” the clowns use is similar to non- western societies. The clowns are seen has the healers using suggestions and manipulation of medical symbols, enforcing the placebo effect on patients effect on patients. When the clowns dress as doctors and use fake hospital equipment to joke around with the children it lowers the fear factor of the actual doctors and procedures they have to get done. They make the hospital environment a more upbeat friendly place for the hospital stuff, family embers, and patients. These clowns are professional clowns that have graduated from clown school. They usually work in groups of two or three when working in the hospitals. They can entertain waiting rooms with distressed parents and siblings, distract a sick child right before they have a scary medical procedure done and just lift the spirits of the hospital staff.  All these task make for a better run hospital.  Although integrating clown therapy into western culture is a fairly new idea, it is common in Native American Cultures. The Pueblos have the best developed institutionalized clowning, they are known for being one of the four groups of clown societies. Medical anthropologists have compared Western and non- Western medical systems and classified non- western medical systems into two different categories; Pesonalistic and naturalistic. While in Western culture medical treatment that directly treats the body is  most common. Some say that bio-medicine does not pay attention to the whole person and studies have shown that more alternative car is in demand. Having the clowns work with the doctors helps increase patients healing as a whole person, not just physically.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Matt Meranda says:

    This was a great summary of the article, and I especially like your last point about clown doctors facilitating the treatment of the person as a whole. I think this reflects well the point in the study about clown doctoring being a form of supplemental or complimentary rather than alternative medicine. So as to the issue of whether or not these shaman-esque healers are legitimate or credible, it is my belief that clown doctors are in their own realm and must be evaluated as such. Certainly when compared to med school educated physicians, their ability to cure disease is hardly comparable; however, these healers do serve their own distinct and valuable purpose. The irony is in their dress, as their attire is meant as caricature to their fellow healers and they share the same purpose, but they go about pursuing this end through entirely different means. In many ways these clown doctors are very similar to the Hmong shamans I discussed in my reflection post; particularly, through coordination with biomedical doctors, their ability provide a more robust and effective form of treatment for their specific patients. This type of holism is becoming more and more important in Western medicine and for good reason: there is more to curing an illness than treating a disease.

  2. James Conwell says:

    I think it is interesting that the clowns played a supplementary role in the traditional health care system. I think it is important to note that there is a large difference in the roles of biomedical doctors and the clowns that work in the New York hospitals. The biomedical doctors have years of medical training, and have special experience and training to diagnose and treat illnesses in a biomedical fashion, which the clown training system cannot compare. However, the Clown Care Unit exists to make children feel better about their care, and to reduce the fear that often plays into having a serious medical treatment. The role of clowns in the medical system, demonstrates an important shift in care and power in American medicine.
    The usage of an alternative healer in the hospital system shows that the health care system is genuinely trying to care and help their patients. With alternative healers, a hospital seems like less of a business where children are getting a surgery and sent on their way, but rather a safer place, that is trying to aid in the healing process by making the patient more comfortable. The power shift in this case is one from doctors, who have the capability of making their patients feel afraid, and may recognize possibly that they don’t have the time or ability to make their patients feel more comfortable, and the hospital has responded with alternative healers: clowns.
    The clown healers are legitimate in the role they play. They exist in a comforting and fear-removing process. They do not exist to diagnose and treat illness; that is the job of the physician. They make the hospital environment more upbeat and less frightening for the patients, which aids in the placebo healing process. If they are able to make quantifiable differences in happiness within patients, and help improve the hospital morale, then clowns certainly have an important role to play in the US healthcare system, even if they are not actively treating a patient’s illnesses.

  3. Riasia Franklin says:

    As I was reading through your topic, it seems very interesting and a good summary about the clown doctors in NYC. These clown doctors could be compared to biomedical doctors in a few ways. Both of the doctors try to find the best routes within the healing processes for the patients. The clown doctors seem really helpful with healing their patients through their appearance of clothing and the fact that kids might get excited seeing a clown, as they would at a birthday party or at some big event . The clown doctor method would be looked at something that is complimenteary rather than being an alternative method of healing because the actual doctor could use those clown doctors to get even better outcomes for the patients. I think the clown doctors seem pretty effective when it comes to healing patients because by having a clown doctor present during the healing processes or treatments could create a friendly, family-loving environment to most people, just a friendly environment period, which would make the patients feel a little better knowing that this place is friendly and family oriented. By having the clown doctor present in the hospital room that also could take the attention off of bad things like if the patient is thinking about his or her sickness. Overall I really agree with the different practices used to treat and heal people throughout different cultures, as time goes on there will be more and more invented ideas and creations used for the healing method.

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