Photo Credit: @t_malone3 on Instagram
Raised by a single mother in South Central L.A., Tony Adkins grew up in an environment surrounded by violence and poverty. He often turned to music and dance to escape a future of falling into a gang just as his two older brothers did. Now, working as a physician assistant (PA) in neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), Adkins has become known as the 'Dancing Doc' and brings joy to his patients by creating dance routines with them to some of today’s most popular songs.
Adkins has become an internationally recognized healthcare provider who loves to connect with his patients in unique ways. As a PA at CHOC, he gives care to kids with common and rare neurological conditions including cerebral palsy, brain tumors, and traumatic brain injuries. Practicing neurosurgery unfortunately means that Adkins sees some of the worst things that children can go through health wise. In an area of medicine where conditions are often complicated and serious, he believes it’s important to create an outlet for kids to have fun because laughter is one of the best medicines he can provide to patients.
Word quickly got out at the hospital about Adkins’s dance performances and soon they were publicized on CHOC’s social media accounts. The response was so overwhelming that some of his videos even went viral. Adkins also had to create separate public social media pages to interact with his viewers. At a combined total of about two million followers across all social media platforms, Adkins's dance videos with his little patients are by far his most popular posts. His treatment methods have become so popular that patients call ahead of their hospital visit to schedule their dance sessions with Adkins.
His desire to connect with patients through these dance routines actually comes from his own history of using music to cope with a harsh upbringing. As previously mentioned, Adkins grew up under a single mother in South Central L.A., an area plagued with violence and poverty. His older brothers fell into gangs, but through hard work and determination, and the support of his wife, Adkins instead went on to be a soldier in the U.S. Army, followed by becoming a certified PA. Through his love of music, he found that the best way he could cope with a toxic environment was through dance. He credits dance as the reason why he didn’t end up in jail or dead at a young age.
Adkins earned a Bachelor’s degree in neurosciences and a Master’s from Loma Linda University in global health and epidemiology, then went on to earn his Master’s degree from University of Washington in health sciences to become a PA. His philosophy is to individualize treatment for his patients and families based on the best practice rooted in recovery model. Often, neurology patients can’t move their hands or legs, may be tethered to their beds, or might have to wear a brace, but being celebrated through song and dance does wonders for their mental health by bringing them joy and helping them get their minds off their specific conditions.
Photo Credit: Kevin Sullivan- Orange County Register/SCNG
According to Adkins, being a PA is somewhat like being a vice principal. “ I do everything a physician does. I manage, diagnose, treat, assist in surgery. I give the doctor my thoughts on cases. This is a job where I’ve been able to put together my passion for medicine, kids, dance, and music. I couldn’t ask for more,” Adkins told the OC Register.
Dancing with his patients may be a fun way to lift their spirits, but it is also an undercover way for Adkins to assess his patients’ mobility and functional levels. Dance also encourages movement, which is a necessary milestone for many children in the hospital. Recently, Adkins recalled a certain patient who was reluctant to get out of bed post-surgery, but an invitation to dance with Adkins was too good to pass up. His patient had so much fun dancing that after they were finished the patient continued moving by doing laps around the hospital. This was a true testament to the good that Adkins spreads throughout CHOC just by taking the time to think outside the box when treating his patients.
With the holidays right around the corner, Adkins has teamed up with GIFT-A-GOWN to spread smiles to children that are hospitalized at CHOC. GIFT-A-GOWN will not only be gifting gowns directly to children who will be in the hospital over the holidays, but the proceeds will go to a special family that could use a holiday miracle. BRAVE GOWNS gives children high-quality gowns to help eliminate infections in their chest ports. These gowns are MRI friendly and they make it easier to access every part of a patient’s body. They are brightly-colored, replacing the uncomfortable and depressing regular hospital gowns. For more information, visit https://www.bravegowns.com/products/tonyadkins.