Physician’s Assistant Tony Adkins puts smiles on his young patients’ faces by busting out some dance moves.
Tony Adkins never intended to go viral. More than a year ago Adkins, a physician’s assistant at CHOC Children’s, was trying to find a way to help boost the spirit of a young patient who had survived childhood leukemia but was now having to go through a series of neurological treatments and surgeries that left him and his family emotionally drained.
“When I was a little kid, I used music and dance as a way of escaping. So I decided one day to start trying to use what I did on him,” says Adkins. “I put on some music and started to act really silly and he started laughing. The next day I turned it on again and said ‘come on, get up’ and we started dancing.”
Adkins was amazed by the almost immediate change in his patient’s mood as was the young boy’s mother. She recorded the two of them together, posted it on social media, and within a year Adkins became a worldwide sensation.
He has appeared on programs like “Good Morning America,” “Good Day LA” and CTV News Toronto, and has had countless articles written about his infectious positivity. His videos and photos on Instagram amass thousands of likes and words of encouragement from all across the globe. Yet through it all, Adkins remains humble. “I just do it for the kids,” he says simply.
Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Adkins witnessed a lot of violence in his neighborhood and both of his brothers were in gangs. “I chose not to go that route. I looked at it as motivation because I didn’t want to do that,” he says. “I saw what [my brothers] went through. I saw their friends going to jail or not making it past a certain age because they got killed and I knew this was not what I wanted to do.”
After graduating from high school, Adkins joined the United States Army. “As a kid I played with G.I. Joe, then I went into the military for nine years,” he says jokingly. When he returned home, Adkins wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself. He decided to fulfill his childhood ambition of pursuing a career in medicine. “I was one of those kids that wanted to be a pediatrician,” he says.
Adkins received his bachelor’s degree from UC Riverside in neurosciences and a master’s degree from Loma Linda University in global health and epidemiology. He then attended the University of Washington to obtain a second master’s degree in health sciences, which allowed him to work as a physician’s assistant.
His goofy antics have had a remarkable effect on both his patients and his co-workers. Kids who haven’t smiled in days light up when the “Dancing Doc” enters their room and almost every floor at CHOC has requested that Adkins come visit them. “Everyone approaches me asking, ‘When are you going to come dance with us?’” he says, laughing. “I try my hardest to make my guest appearances on every floor. We have a good time.”
Adkins has brought joy into the lives of his patients, their families and his co-workers in an environment that is often plagued by tragedy. “Being in the hospital is stressful at times and we try to find a way to relieve that stress because we see so many things—some good, some bad,” he says. “I wouldn’t change anything about what I’ve been through to get to this point. Every day is a blessing and every day is a day to rejoice.”
Follow Tony Adkins on Instagram @t_malone3 to see all his videos.
By Megan Feighery