SOMERVILLE, NJ - Dr. Marc Milano is the well-respected medical director of the Emergency Department at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/Somerset, looked up to and admired by his colleagues for his medical skills, affability, and the ability to handle pressure, make life-and-death decisions, to lead and inspire.
Lately, he's also being looked upon as something of a "fashionista," a real trend-setter when it comes to hospital garb. Milano confesses that he's been running up a tab online shopping at Amazon, adding to his collection of tight-fitting, Spandex "crazy pants."
Bold designs, bright colors, angular patterns, patriotic, psychedelic, animal and floral prints, rock stars, movie themes, comic book heroes, Pac Man, the crazier the better.
Whatever it takes to put a smile on a face, or to help boost morale in the midst of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
"I don't think morale has sunken, but it's something we want to bolster," Milano said.
"I learned a long time ago that laughter is the best medicine and that doesn't extend to only patients, it extends to my co-workers, especially the nursing staff," Milano said.
"I'm not thinking about me when I'm wrestling these things on but rather, how many nurses, how many patients are going o laugh, smile, relieve their stress by me embarrassing myself," Milano said.
"I just can't wait to see peoples' reactions, that fuels the fire for me to do something crazier the next day. We all need something like this to break the tension," Milano said.
He laughs at the suggestion that Dr. Crazy Pants would be a fitting name.
Milano's recent fixation with the "crazy pants" is what inspired "Spirit Day" at the hospital on Friday; all 2,200 employees on both the day and night shifts were encouraged to slip into a pair of "crazy pants" socks or surgical caps.
A flyer was distributed to employees earlier in the week, inviting staff to mimic Milano's fashion statement.
This all started when Milano noticed a box of "crazy" pants in a hospital corridor. They had been donated by a member of the community for the nurses to change in to at the end of their shift before heading home.
However, there were not many takers, according to Milano.
"No one was taking them home; they were kind of ugly, to be honest," Milano said.
But it occurred to the 49-year-old physician that he might get a laugh from the emergency room staff if he were to slip into a pair.
"It's a fun thing for everybody," Milano said. "So I throw them on over my scrubs and walk throughout the hospital, everyone looks at me, has a comment to make, the reaction every day is so positive, so overwhelming. After a few days I thought, 'I'm on to something here.' "
Milano plans to wear “crazy pants” every day throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to help bring smiles and lift his colleagues’ spirits. Dr. Ron Nahass, the hospital's lead epidemiologist, has also joined Milano in wearing crazy pants each day.
"Patients have gotten kick out of this too," Milano said. I tell them I'm actually a doctor, not a paid actor or clown. They give me a pick-me-up too, it's an overwhelming positive for the patients."
"They're worth every penny," Milano said. "I hope my pants outlast this illness. I am confident I have more pants than there are days left for this coronavirus."
Spirit Day is also a reflection of the culture at RWJUH/Somerset, according to Milano, who has worked at the hospital since 2009.
"I cant even tell you how much I love them all, never more than now," he said. "Spiritual support, love, kindness, compassion, we have to show that to our patients, but now more than ever, we need to show it towards one another," Milan added.
It's the little things that make RWJUH/Somerset special, Milano said.
"Somerset has a culture like no other hospital," he said. "It's a family."