As being a doctor is commonly associated with long hours and burnout, having out-of-work hobbies is extremely important to help them cope with the stressful work life. Apart from releasing stress, doctors’ side interests may sometimes boost their skills in the medical profession or even assist them to perform better with a healthier outlook.

Below are five interesting hobbies one may never expect from a doctor.

1. Beekeeping doctor

Dr Tony Vancauwelaert is a medical director of Swedish Covenant Hospital Health in Chicago and a beekeeper. While he is passionate to help people with science, Vancauwelaert likes to have a hobby to stay well rounded and intellectually stimulated beyond medicine.

To help him stay outdoors, Vancauwelaert started beekeeping. He was only stung several times in the first two years and never since. With several beehives installed, Vancauwelaert gives the honey and beeswax to his patients, friends and family while selling out the rest to offset his production costs.

Vancauwelaert also managed to install one at his hospital’s “green roof” after persuading the authorities and taking the necessary precautions. Now, he gives beekeeping lectures and tours of the roof and hives.

"I find it a stress reliever. It forces me to spend time outside and I end up with a product I enjoy and can share with others," said Vancauwelaert.

2. Surgeon and rock star photographer

Besides working as a breast cancer and melanoma surgeon, Dr Charlie Chan is also a rock star photographer.

"My patients always come first so I work full-time as a surgeon and photography is my night job," he said. "I decided to become a surgeon at the age of 12 and concentrated on that." But he has been into photography since he was 15, too.

Ten years ago, Chan received his first press pass from Cheltenham Jazz Festival and since started his music photography work. Chan said he uses similar skills in both professions as light and composition helps him in a breast reconstruction as well as when he shoots in black and white.

Besides, both careers are about people for Chan. He enjoys sharing good news with his patients who are “very brave in the face of adversity” while telling a story through his photos for the "viewer to be there in the moment".

3. GP and clown improvisation facilitator

A southeast London GP, Dr David Wheeler, is a teacher and a clown improvisation facilitator. He began clowning after attending a weekend introductory course in clown improvisation in 1993.

“'Discover your inner clown', the advertisement said. So I have, and over the years and many more clown courses, this has had a profound impact on me and my work as a GP educator,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said he could see clear links between his experience of clown improvisation and the skills needed to explore his patients’ stories more empathetically. He also found that clowning helped him to be less stressed and more playful in his own life.

“For me, it has become a form of personal development; a way to enhance communication skills and develop self-compassion and resilience, thereby preventing burnout,” said Wheeler.

4. GP and a paraglider

Dr Kate Baker from Cardiff has always wanted to fly as a child. She focused on her medicine dream at the age of eight and only picked up her hobby of paragliding when she was 40 and married with children.

After going through training and written exams, Baker is now qualified as a Club Pilot (CP). She keeps a photo of her flying in her room at the surgery for her patients to see and keep herself inspired. She also shares her paragliding experience with her patients to encourage them to learn new things regardless the age.

“Being in the air feels so free and I appreciate the escape from my busy, noisy life. In the air you have to concentrate on flying safely. There are no interruptions and you can put away all the stress of work and life,” said Baker.

5. Doctor who medicates through photos

Dr Yao Zhang acquired his interest in photography at the age of 13 when his father gave him his first camera and taught him how to develop photos.

"I just take photos of whatever I like; I just can't stop," he said. Zhang is a keen landscape and nature photographer, which is why he decided to settle down in Naracoorte, South Australia and is now finishing his training as a GP registrar.

As a doctor, he uses photos as medication. Thus, he gives his photos of landscapes to aged patients and those in palliative care. “The pathological side [of illnesses] is a lot easier to deal with, but the mental side is totally different,” said Zhang.

"I just tell them — think about the good things, keep a positive attitude." MIMS

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