Doctors Clowning it in Israel

November 4, 2011 by Henry Benjamin
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More than 250 participants from 22 countries have taken part in Israel’s first medical clowns conference.

Professor Dr Thomas Petschner (centre) clowns it up

Dream Doctors is an Israeli organisation which funds the salaries of the country’s medical clowns.  Throughout most of the world the clown doctors are volunteers but in Israel they are paid professionals.

The conference focused on the benefits derived from medical clowning. Most of those practising it have had some background in theatre .

Participant Professor Dr Thomas Petschner from Christchurch had been an actor before becoming a doctor. In 2009, under the auspices of Red Nose Clown Doctors, he launched the first unit at the paediatric and children’s oncology departments at Christchurch Hospital and the older persons’ department at the city’s Princess Margaret Hospital.

Dr Petschner told media: early in my medical career, I found that laughter releases hormones that help heal and that inspired me to use clowning as a therapeutic tool.”

Clowning can do more harm than good and Israeli clown doctors must take a three month course with Haifa University offering a bachelor’s degree in medical clowning.

Israeli clown doctors are also taught advanced Arabic in order to treat patients for whom the language is the only one they know.

Sydney paediatrician Associate Professor John Ziegler told J-Wire: “Not all clown doctors are doctors. Many are actors and performers with an interest in the successful results that the use of clowns have had on patients both young and old and the concept is now being extended into other area of medicine.”



One Response to “Doctors Clowning it in Israel”
  1. moshe cohen says:

    Thanks for your article. I was at the conference and I want to point out that your your information is incorrect. Many of the world’s clown doctors are paid professionals, not volunteers. They are known as medical clowns, cliniclowns, hospital clowns, clown doctors.
    Moshe Cohen

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