As you’re watching America’s Thanksgiving parade this year, keep an eye out for Duane Mezwa, M.D., Beaumont Health System’s corporate chair of Imaging Services.
He’ll be the one in makeup, a wig and a cape as a member of the Distinguished Clown Corps.
“I’ve been a member of the Distinguished Clown Corps for 18 years now,” he says. “You’re marching with the movers and shakers in Detroit but because we’re all in costume, you can’t tell who is who. It’s a fun way to start the holiday season.”
Dr. Mezwa “got hooked,” as he says, on being a clown when one of his colleagues, Greg Raiss, M.D., from Radiology at Beaumont Hospital-Troy, nominated him to be in the corps.
“You have to be nominated to join,” he says. “You then make a donation to The Parade Company and enjoy the experience. You work with some wonderful ladies in the costume department at The Parade Company, so that’s all provided for you. For a while there, every year I would get a new nose, but I’ve changed direction so now I’m into wild glasses.”
At 5:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, Dr. Mezwa and his family report to the Boll Family YMCA in Detroit for costume and makeup. Professionals are on-hand to apply just the right amount of face paint to transform him from doctor to clown. The clowns load onto a bus in full costume to take their place in line in the parade.
“We take a group photo just before boarding the buses,” he says. “Sometimes we have to wait on the bus for a while before the parade starts. We’re an anxious group of clowns.”
When they find their place in the parade, they load up their arms with beaded necklaces to toss into the crowd.
“The fun part is giving the beads to the kids,” he says. “I can remember so many neat instances where you give beads to a little girl who asks you for more so her brother can have some, too. One year I saw one of my Beaumont colleagues at the parade, so I covered him with silly string. It’s a great event and a great way to give back to the city.”
Let us add some bragging for Dr. Mezwa: He attended Wayne State University School of Medicine (1979) and did his residency at William Beaumont Hospital, Diagnostic Radiology (1983). He is chair of Diagnostic Radiology and Molecular Imaging at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. He also is a professor at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.
Plus, he has many career awards, including an Achievement Award from the Association of Program Directors in Radiology (2012), Best Doctors in America (2013-14) and multiple notes as a “Top Doc” from Hour Detroit magazine.
Back to the clowning around. His family is very supportive of his clowning around (he even went to a one-day clown school). His daughter and son-in-law have been marching with him the last several years, while the rest of the family goes early and gets a seat in the bleachers to “watch Dad go by,” he says.
“Sometimes there are so many people that all you can see is a sea of people. It’s the quickest three-mile walk you can ever imagine.”