The Dancing Doctor teaches value of self-care

GP supervisor Richard Mayes entertains shoppers at his local supermarket as The Dancing Doctor, also known as Mullet Man. Image: ABC Central Victoria, Larissa Romensky

Leading a flash mob dance in his signature mullet wig has been a joyful step to new health for Victorian GP supervisor Dr Richard Mayes.

The Dancing Doctor, also known as Mullet Man, has inspired a troupe of about 100 Castlemaine adults to reap the physical and mental health benefits of dance.

From a flash mob dance in a local supermarket during the town’s arts festival to performing at community events, Richard says the dance movement has transformed countless lives.

“It’s been the most profound, effective health promotion activity I have ever been involved in during 20 years of medicine,” he said.

Richard once battled with depression while juggling general practice, obstetrics and family life. He eventually heeded his own medical advice to patients, prescribing a new mindset for work-life balance.

He also gave himself permission to break free from the expected persona of a GP outside of their profession.

It’s a message he shares with his registrars; not to learn to dance per se, but to “walk the talk” to enjoy and role-model strategies for good physical and mental health.

“I started my career like old-school rural GPs, working all the time, trying to be all things to all people. But I became burnt-out and depressed,” Richard told GPSA.

“I am saying to my registrars, ‘Don’t make the same mistake. We are not expendable, and we are no good to anyone if we are burnt-out.

“We have registrars who are keen to do the work, but we need to teach them how to do it sustainably.

“We need to prioritise self-care and practise what we preach by fitting into our lives what gives joy and stress relief, whether that is meditation or music, or something else.”

Ripple effect

For running enthusiast Richard, learning ’80s-style soul funk routines evolved from his “daggy Dad dance moves” in the bird mascot costume at local fun runs.

A patient who was a hip-hop dance instructor urged Richard to take classes and when he accepted the challenge many others followed, including a seniors’ group, The Silver Tops.

The ripple effect has been infectious. There are many heartwarming stories of improved mobility and health, and lonely hearts being opened again through community connection.

“I hope I am inspiring registrars to do what it takes to look after themselves as well as caring for and connecting with the community on a health promotion level,” Richard, a supervisor of 10 years, said.

Richard’s example has certainly gained momentum.

“One of our current registrars has organised a monthly ‘active-wear’ Monday,” he said.

“We have all volunteered at Park Run, and Lyttleton Street Medical Clinic t-shirts are being organised for the team to wear at sport events.

“We have a nice culture of health and well-being.”

Mental Health Month (October)

GPSA asked Richard for supervisor tips as part of Mental Health Month. He advised:

“For me my passion is clinical work and teaching and education and dancing gives me that change in scene to do something different,” Richard said.

“I help my registrars find out what it is they love about medicine and encourage them to find ways to have that as part of their practice.”