When you pass a busker dancing on the street, with a boombox and a collection jar nearby, you’re probably not thinking, “Hmm, must be a doctor on his day off.” You’d probably still not think that even if the dancer was wearing a white coat and scrubs. But in this case, you’d be wrong. If you pass this scene in downtown Boston, chances are you’re looking at Adnan Khera, MD, a 28-year-old anesthesiology resident at Tufts Medical Center, also known as the Dancing Doctor.
Dr. Khera takes to the streets of downtown Boston several hours a week for the sheer joy of dancing, for the intense workout he gets from it, and, not incidentally, to raise money for charity. He says there’s another big goal, too: “The primary objective is to have an impact, to get the message out there that an individual can make a difference in society by pursuing their passion. Raising that awareness is one measure of my success,” he says.
Since he took up street dancing last spring, Dr. Khera has met all these goals handily, and more. He set himself a goal of raising $10,000 for charity, and raised that amount in just a few months. His organization, DoctorBeDancing (doctorbedancing.com), has donated to a variety of charities. “Animals that need rescuing, children who are living in poverty and need school supplies, terminally ill children, and meals for people who have chronic illnesses,” he says, listing his favored causes so far.
While a doctor dancing on the street for money may seem unusual, Dr. Khera’s path to busking followed a fairly straight line. “I’ve always had a passion for exercise and music, and how they can affect your mood and relieve stress,” he explains. “Right after medical school I did a five-week backpacking trip through Europe. There’s a huge street busking culture in Europe, and I even considered living in Barcelona and street performing for money.”
Instead, Dr. Khera returned to the States, and continued to pursue his passions during residency. During his first year of residency, he ran a Baltimore marathon for the world record for Fastest Marathon Dressed as a Baby. "I ran wearing just a diaper, safety pin, and bonnet," he says. He then moved to Boston for the remainder of his residency, training for a 100-mile ultramarathon in Alaska (dressed as Scooby-Doo). "It was my dream race, and it took me almost five months to prepare for. After that I had some down time before starting my final year of residency, and I decided that once the winter was over I would start performing on the street.”
The demands of his residency have never stopped Dr. Khera from pursuing his own journey. “I wanted to show that you can still have adventures, learn about different cultures, and live as if you’re traveling. For me, that different culture is street performing culture.”
Dr. Khera chooses heavily trafficked streets like Boylston and Newbury in downtown Boston to encounter as many people as possible. And he goes out of his way to make sure those people know he’s a physician. “I wear a white coat when I’m dancing; it’s actually one of the only times I wear one,” he says.
The dancing doctor chooses the music he performs to carefully as well. “I use Spotify [a music app], and usually I play something I heard in the last week or two that I know will get me moving. I like a lot of electronic music with ups and downs, breaks and variability. It’s physically demanding to dance for two hours, but I know that every time I stop dancing, that’s dollars taken away from charity.” A self-taught dancer, Dr. Khera describes his style as “a mix of popping, crump, and hip-hop.”
In addition to his busking, Dr. Khera also throws large theme parties for charity, now under the umbrella of his DoctorBeDancing organization. “Two to three times a year, with a couple of hundred people as guests,” he says. One recent party was called “Undress to Impress. “It was a charity stripping party,” he explains. “Everybody came dressed in layers, and they had to take off one layer each time the DJ played. At the end of the night, all of the clothes were collected and donated to local shelters. The whole party was really a clothing donation drive, although we also charged admission at the door and collected a little bit of money that way for charity.” Coming up is Dr. Khera’s fifth annual Halloween party. “I’m hoping this year it will be even bigger thanks to the publicity that DoctorBeDancing is getting.”
Dr. Khera doesn’t plan to let the upcoming Boston winter, which can be quite harsh, stop him from performing. “I’m looking into something indoors, maybe the Prudential Center,” he says.
Next year Dr. Khera hopes to be doing a fellowship in pediatric anesthesiology. . . and continuing to dance. “This project has no downside at all,” he says. “There’s just so much good coming out of it. I get to dance, which I love. Everyone else smiles as they walk by. I get to take money from anyone who wants to give, and give it to people who need it. The whole thing is positive for anyone who comes into contact with it.”
For more information, or to donate to the cause, visit DoctorBeDancing.com.