FINZ Annual Conference 2017

Clown Doctors New Zealand Trust

The Clown Doctors New Zealand Charitable Trust was co-founded in 2009 by CEO and Creative Director Professor Thomas Petschner and Programme Director Rita Noetzel. It may be a funny business, but one which is taken seriously. Clown Doctors are professional performers with academic training from the International Institute for Medical Clowning.

Clown Doctors are nothing like circus clowns with large wigs, baggy costumes, or painted faces. “Clown Doctors are very different because they’re interacting with people in varying states of sickness, entering their ward, their space, so they can’t be too over-the-top,” says Prof. Thomas Petschner. Instead, Clown Doctors look like slightly eccentric hospital staff-members.

“They all wear white lab-coats, but they might wear a silly hat, bright socks, or a colourful shirt,” explains Rita Noetzel. “Plus a red nose of course.”

CEO & Creative Director

Professor Thomas Petschner is a published author and playwright and former theatre director. He also has twin Ph.D.s in nutritional and complementary medicine and is one of the renowned leaders in the field of facial diagnostics. As an internationally acknowledged researcher of human behaviour and the therapeutic use of humour he is perfectly suited for the wonderful Clown Doctors initiative, to spread fun & happiness to those who need it most.

He created the world’s first specialised academic education for Clown Doctors and founded the International Institute for Medical Clowning, a social enterprise at Steinbeis University Berlin. As the founder and CEO of Clown Doctors New Zealand Charitable Trust, he brings the sound of laughter to New Zealand's hospitals and put smiles on the faces of those dealing with challenging illnesses.

Programme Director and Team Co-ordinator

Rita Noetzel was born in Canada, and worked in Switzerland for five years as a bilingual PA before moving to New Zealand. She comes from a holistic health care background, and has a number of qualifications in various forms of massage therapy as well as being a Dr. Hauschka facial therapist. She has worked at an integrative medical centre for many years, initially as a receptionist, then as practice manager and now as an independent therapist, so she understands the health care sector and how to work in it.

Rita is passionate about humour for health and sees clown doctors as holistic health care and believes that being able to laugh is an important part of daily life. Everyone should be given this right and clown doctors can create a bridge between humour and health treatment, increasing the quality of life and the well-being of those in medical care.

Organising clown doctors can be a tough job, but it’s one Rita takes great pride in and she’s very proud of the national team and is often referred to as ‘the mother of clowns’.

Photo by Heather & Doug Records for Avenues Magazine.

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Master Class

Thursday 4 May, 6:30pm

Soar Print FINZ Fundraising Excellence Awards 2017 - A celebration of fundraising excellence with Clown Doctors, New Zealand.




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