Trust me, I’m a clown doctor: young Chinese patients are getting a taste of Western ‘alternative medicine’

Don’t let the wigs and red noses fool you – some medical professionals are very serious about the beneficial effect of laughter on children’s health

By Alice Yan 

Wearing a round, red plastic nose, a colourful suit, and sometimes an outrageous wig, Song Longchao is affectionately referred to as “clown brother” by his young patients.

As a nurse at the children’s surgery department of Sichuan Provincial People’s Hospital in Chengdu, Song, 29, has spent much of his spare time in the past four years playing the fool in the hope of bringing joy and laughter to everyone on the wards.

Clown doctors appeared in the United States about four decades ago, and the idea spread to other Western countries. The phenomenon became the subject of the 1998 Hollywood film Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams.

But China, it is a new phenomenon, and few people know of the practice, which is based on the theory that humour can complement medical treatment.

Song said he discovered clowning in 2015, when senior doctor colleagues returned with the idea after studying in overseas hospitals and asked staff if they were interested in it.