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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The shoeless man making balloons and smiles at one local hospital isn’t quite who you expect to be a pediatrician, but Dr. Robert Cicco approaches medicine in his own unique way.
You could say he’s Pittsburgh’s version of Patch Adams.
He’s a balloon artist, clown, magician and a pediatrician at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield, but he also takes time to help the whole family.
Dr. Cicco says being a good doctor is actually a lot like being a good magician, both first have to be good technically.
“But if you want to be really good, you have to also know how to entertain… it means developing a relationship with your audience,” said Dr. Cicco.
In medicine, that means developing a relationship with patients and their families.
Dr. Cicco takes the time to understand not just the babies, but the parents – to listen to them and give them invaluable advice on what happens when they take home their new baby. It can be a daunting prospect, especially for first-time moms like Krissy Huckle, of Shaler, and her daughter, Chloe.
“Remember that first day when we were talking and I said how neat it was that you couldn’t take your eyes off her? Keep doing that guys because that’s your only reward for all this stuff is watching her grow, do new things,” Dr. Cicco says.
In addition to the medical details, Dr. Cicco treats the whole family, giving parents practical tips on how to help older brothers and sisters acclimate to a new baby in the family.
“Number one, you keep her involved,” he said. “Say what a big girl you are, find 100 times a day ways to say to her what a good big sister she is.”
He helps parents do that with gifts of balloons. After learning magic while in medical school, Dr. Cicco learned balloon art because he wanted to leave patients with something to take home.
Dr. Cicco says parenting is all about listening.
“The better you get at listening… the better you’re going to know what to do and when to do it,” he says.
Dr. Cicco leaves all of the families with similar parting words that sum up his approach.
“Feed her when she’s hungry, change her when she’s wet, love her a lot. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing beautiful with her, you’ll be in good shape,” he told one new mom.
Families leave West Penn Hospital with a baby, balloons and advice to keep the heart healthy by showing love for their little blessing.
Dr. Cicco says he’s met the real Patch Adams on several occasions and has great respect for what he does.
But Dr. Cicco says he prefers to work within mainstream medicine to try to effect change from within, using his clowning and balloon artistry to supplement his work at the hospital.
He also does balloon art at local restaurants and is a clown in many parades.