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Dr. Magician: Med Student Uses Magic to Make Patients’ Fear Disappear

Inspiring America: Using Magic to Unlock the Healing Powers of a Smile 1:43

STONY BROOK, New York — With a deck of cards and stethoscope in hand, David Elkin is not your typical third-year medical student. Along with medicine, he practices magic on his patients to make their anxiety and fear disappear.

Elkin, 27, started MagicAid and serves as the resident "doctor magician" at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, performing for kids and their families every week on the pediatrics floor.

"Magic is unique in that it allows you suspend your disbelief and make you feel that the impossible is possible," Elkin said. "So when I perform magic for patients at the hospital, I like to think that it provides them with a subconscious hope that they'll get through this."

David Elkin - MagicAid
David Elkin performs magic tricks for kids. Stony Brook Children's Hospital / Stony Brook Children's Hospital

Elkin has 11-year-old patient Delaney Unger under his spell. Unger is being treated for osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, and welcomes Dr. Magician whenever he is on the floor. Elkin teaches her magic and even gives her a trick to make her own.

Unger's father said he believes that the magic is in a way medicine. "Anything that makes her smile makes me smile," Noah Unger said. "There are good days and there are bad days, but when we're here having David come in helps a lot."

Elkin said his experience tells him that magic helps to boost social abilities along with a child's motor skills. Each patient is different, so Elkin customizes magic therapy for each one.

David Elkin - MagicAid
David Elkin and his MagicAid team at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. Stony Brook University School of Medicine / Stony Brook University School of Medicine

His bag of tricks is catching on and now almost 50 fellow medical students participate in MagicAid, all learning how to bring a little levity to their patients.

"It's helping me learn how to interact with patients of different ages," first year medical student Amanda Lang-Smith said. "It's also good to incorporate the parents so they're more comfortable with the situation and what the kids are going through."

"You can't really see what happens in magic, it's all an illusion, so kids feel like magic is medicine," Elkin said.