Dr. Lollipop Cures The Blues In Um Children's Ward

November 24, 1991|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,Staff writer

Rubber hammer and bicycle pump in hand, the "doctor" began her morning rounds.

Entering the room of 8-year-old Lonnie Lloyd, the odd-looking physician placed a stethoscope affixed to a small toilet plunger on Lonnie's head before checking his throat with an oversized tongue depressor -- a paint-stirrer from Hechinger.

The clown in the lab coat, who really is a clown in a lab coat, introduced herself as "Dr. Lollipop -- a real sucker," advising the youngster that if he ever needs an operation, to just look her up in the Yellow Pages under "sturgeon." She then let him listen to her heartwith a real stethoscope -- minus the plunger.

Dr. Lollipop, who is actually Columbia resident Judy Goldblum-Carlton, has been a fixture at the pediatric wing of the University of Maryland Medical Center for the past 18 months, pulling props out of her medical suitcase andtelling jokes to help children and teen-agers overcome their fears and boredom.

"Both parents and children enjoy Dr. Lollipop," said Dr. Michael Berman, chief of pediatrics at the hospital. "They find her a diversion, a break in the routine of the hospital that's refreshing. And the parents get to see their kid smile."

A child of a Holocaust survivor, Goldblum-Carlton saw at an early age the curative value of humor. "When I saw so much sadness around me, I started readingjoke books and developed a sense of humor at an early age," she said.

"I remember telling my father jokes. He would turn so red from laughing, he nearly fell out of his chair."

The 43-year-old Texas native, who has a bachelor's degree in sociology from Boston University, considered medical school but says she "always wanted to be a clown."

Goldblum-Carlton assumed the identity of Dr. Lollipop while working as a hospital cardiopulmonary technician in San Francisco in 1973. Dressed as the Easter Bunny, she noticed one child frightened by a medical examination.

"I picked up a stethoscope and examined him, and then he was fine," said Goldblum-Carlton. "Then I realized thatwith a humorous approach to medical education, children would be more relaxed and open."

Shortly after that, she donned a white lab coat, clown face, wig, oversized light reflector on her head, and exaggerated medical equipment in hand.

"I used big reflex hammers," shesaid. "I even have some that when you hit the knee, it sounds like glass crashing. Now some doctors at the medical center go around usingthem."

Although Goldblum-Carlton goes by the name Lollipop, she does not dispense lollipops. "I didn't know which kids were diabetic, so to avoid taking away any from a diabetic child, I didn't do it. Mygoal was to give away coloring books."

Dr. Lollipop Coloring Books feature animals, medical instruments and children of many nationalities. She spent seven years at the hospital, where she starred in herown 12-minute educational film, "Dr. Lollipop Meets The Otoscope," and entertained at local schools.

After moving to Columbia 11 yearsago, Goldblum-Carlton worked at home to raise her son, Benjamin Carlton, 7, although she did manage to keep up with clowning techniques, entertaining at his nursery school, Bet Yeladim in Columbia.

Threeyears ago, after "reconnecting with people on what was going on in humor and medicine," she decided to resurrect Dr. Lollipop.

At her own expense, she put together a "humor cart" of joke books, games, gag items, cartoon and comedy videos, and a television and VCR, to takefrom room to room at the hospital.

Goldblum-Carlton approached Sarah Morgan, the medical center's child life coordinator, who was responsive to the concept of a clown doctor.

Berman explained that because the medical center is one of the few hospitals in the state thatspecializes in care for seriously ill children, "this department hastried to go further than typical child-life programs whose purpose is to entertain the kids and provide educational programs."

Before her rounds, Dr. Lollipop is given a list of patients by Morgan, who highlights those names of children she feels will benefit most from her visits.

Nor is it unusual, said Berman, for Dr. Lollipop to visit children who are in isolation or suffering from AIDS. "Kids who areinitially stressed and want to be left alone -- those are the kids she would see," he said.

Dr. Lollipop is a non-salaried volunteer, sponsored by the B'nai B'rith Women. She hopes to be salaried as a humor specialist once the hospital submits a grant proposal for funding.

Goldblum-Carlton and her partner Judy Young also have created "Funny Business," whose logo is, "Health IS a laughing matter." The Columbia-based business will develop therapeutic humor programs for hospitals.

Last year, Dr. Lollipop made her mark on the international circuit as the guest clown/ringmaster with the Moscow Circus for one night at the Baltimore Arena.

She also holds the distinction of being invited to the International Clown Festival by Yuri Nikulin, headof the Moscow Circus and comrade in clowning.

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