This doctor orders you to laugh, cry and sing
Clown doctors offer patients smiles to lift their spirits and compassion in their darkest moments.
A hospital is a serious place - once described to me as a "life and death institute".
It's not the sort of place you'd expect to find an audience willing to indulge a clown.
But in many countries, red-nosed, big-shoed, floppy-hatted clowns have become indispensable in patient care.
Recently, clown doctors started silly-walking the halls of several hospitals in Singapore.
But after being lucky enough to catch Captain Mozzarella and Meow Meow first-hand, we came to realise that medical clowning is so much more than just shenanigans.
You can help
The clown doctors make people smile, help lighten a heavy mood, lift damp spirits and provide a bit of relief. Humour has been proven to help healing, we learnt.
And behind the rubber-glove chickens and ditzy dance routines, there's an art that can only be realised after hours of professional training in medicine, science, culture, psychology, performing arts and more. That's then followed by more hours of practice visits and introspection.
Art, connection and empowerment
Professor Ati Citron, who came from the University of Haifa in Israel to train Singapore's medical clowns, described it to us like this:
When you enter a hospital as a patient, you are the "lowest" person in a hierarchy of authority. At the top are the doctors who ask intruding questions and know a lot more than you do about your body.
One step below them are the nurses, who poke and prod, and often see parts of you that no stranger usually sees.
Next are your loved ones who expect you to cooperate with everything you're told to do.
This leaves you, the patient, disenfranchised, lonely, afraid, hurting and sad.
Then, in comes the clown. He plays the fool. He doesn't judge, and he has nothing to prove. He adapts to the moment and has no expectations.
"While everyone works on what is wrong with you, the clown works with the healthy part of you," says Professor Ati. The clown connects with you through your imagination, ability to be amused, and to smile.
And he is also there in the hard and scary moments to distract you from pain and anxiety, and to help you cope.
We heard stories from practitioners and trainers about how clown doctors have the ability to fill a unique role in sad situations, where humour and smiles may be set aside in favour of being a comforting presence, an ear or a shoulder to the patient.
He is trained to absorb the moment, and be present in a way that will empower a patient no matter what is happening around him.
I know I'd like to have a clown doctor to be silly or sad with and to help lift my spirits the next time I'm in a hospital. And I'll be sure to do what the doctor orders.
Singapore's first batch of clown doctors recently graduated from their training programme. The non-profit is now raising funds to train more medical clowns. You can support them here.