/////UAMS Physician Mixes Humor with Good Medicine
UAMS Physician Mixes Humor with Good Medicine 2018-01-05T09:16:53+00:00

MAY 3, 2006 | Julio Hochberg, M.D., knows that laughter really is the best medicine.


A plastic surgeon at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Hochberg has made it a practice to bring a smile to his patients’ faces, while also easing their fears about their medical condition.


To accomplish this, Hochberg has the help of some unique friends: three custom-made puppets aptly named Dr. Hamburger, Nurse Fry and Dr. Baby.


In addition to his practice at UAMS, Hochberg also treats patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Many of his young patients have conditions such as cranial facial deformities and cleft lips, while his UAMS patients are often there to undergo breast reconstruction following a mastectomy.


Dr. Hamburger — who bears a striking resemblance to Hochberg — came into being about four years ago. “We got the idea for Dr. Hamburger when a patient drew a picture of me and labeled it with that name,” he said. “Hochberg is too hard for some of my younger patients to say.”


Hochberg, who grew up in Brazil, sent the drawing to a puppet maker in that country, asking him to construct a puppet based on the child’s rendering. The puppet maker, who happens to be the son of Hochberg’s childhood friend, completed Dr. Hamburger in about six months.


He has since created an additional puppet modeled after Hochberg’s former nurse. Dr. Baby, who sports a Tommy Hilfiger diaper and pacifier in place of a stethoscope, wasn’t created to resemble anyone in particular, Hochberg said, but added that he does look similar to a UAMS resident physician.


Hochberg brings out his puppets each Friday during his clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where many of the patients come in asking to see them. He then shares the stories of Dr. Hamburger’s adventures with his adult patients at the Arkansas Cancer Research Center (ACRC) at UAMS.


“I tell the stories of Dr. Hamburger, and they love it,” he said. “I had a patient who was very depressed, and I told her the stories of when Dr. Hamburger was growing up or stories about how much the children enjoy the puppets. Next time, the patient came in asking for more stories.” Hochberg often uses Dr. Hamburger to tell stories from his own childhood in Brazil, all from the puppet’s perspective.


It’s important to note that these are not just your run-of-the-mill puppets, he said. Because they are modeled after medical professionals, Dr. Hamburger, Nurse Fry and the other puppets help ease the minds of children who might be frightened by doctors and nurses.


“The puppets help the children understand that doctors are there to help them, not hurt them,” he said.


Hochberg hopes to expand Dr. Hamburger’s influence by creating a photo anthology of the puppet in various historic Little Rock locations, including the governor’s mansion and Central High School. The puppet has already traveled with Hochberg to Paris and was introduced to Gov. Mike Huckabee prior to the 2006 Little Rock Marathon.


“People may think this is just for fun, but it’s really serious,” Hochberg said. “We’re just trying to help bring a smile to the face of our patients.”