His surgical hand is unfailingly steady, and his bedside manner is reassuring. But it's NBA playoff time, and his medical concentration is slipping.
In fact, no one in Utah is more excited about big-time basketball than Dr. Richard Anderson, professor of ophthalmology and chief of the Division of Oculoplastic and Facial Cosmetic Surgery at the University of Utah.Patients who have gone under his knife to lift sagging lids from narrow, disappearing eyes consider him gifted. He is known as one of the most eminent ocular plastic surgeons in the world.
But Anderson has a dirty little secret.
When he gets out of his scrubs, he heads for the Delta Center and settles into his front row, slightly obstructed seat just under the Jazz basket.
There, he magically turns from Dr. Jekyll into Dr. Heckle.
With bizarre clothes and Jazz insignia imprinted on his face, he continuously pulls from his "tackle box" numerous items geared to either cheer up the Jazz or irritate their opponents.
The surgeon is arguably Utah's most obnoxious basketball fan, and he loves the attention.
He has been known to play a musical instrument during free throws, display screaming signs and hold aloft blow-up dolls, bean bags and rubber chickens.
Frequently, he hollers through a lucky Coke cup or a megaphone - actually a parking cone painted purple - that was given to him by the Jazz Bear.
The only thing is, some of his patients have not made the connection.
Just the other day, the white-jacketed Anderson was quietly preparing a female patient for cosmetic surgery. Suddenly, her eyes widened and her face turned ashen.
She exclaimed, "YOU'RE THAT DOCTOR AT THE JAZZ GAMES!"
"Yes, I am," admitted Anderson in his fuzziest, doctor-like tones.
"You seem so different! I can't imagine that I'm coming to you."
Even if an occasional patient may fear that an out-of-control Dr. Heckle cannot be trusted to perform delicate eye surgery, Anderson is not threatened.
"Some people can get jazzed up by going to the ballet or the symphony." says the doctor. "I enjoy those, but I don't get the same emotional lift I get from a basketball game."
Not that he is a sensational player. As a high school senior, he fouled out in the first two minutes and five seconds of a game, establishing a still-unbroken record.
But basketball remains his favorite sport.
If he could be anything in the world, Anderson would love to be a John Stockton or a Karl Malone.
Realizing this is not a realistic dream, he expresses himself emotionally at almost every Jazz game. Initially, the fan behind him would put his hands on his shoulders and say, "Sit down and shut up!"
Not only are his seats on the front row now, but he lays claim to the two seats behind him. "That means," he says, "it is only the ref and the players who can tell me to sit down and shut up."
"Dr. Rick," as the Jazz players know him, behaves himself at the ballet or the symphony. But he fully intends to have an impact on Jazz games.
Superstitious about his "little treasures," Anderson wears the same shirt until the Jazz lose or "it's stinking so bad my wife makes me wash it. I use a Coke cup as long as it's winning, and I'll keep that going on a string."
Anderson loves to frustrate the refs.
A few years ago, he discovered that if he jumped in his seat, the rim of the basket moved ever so slightly.
"So in critical games, I did that, until I was charged with shaking the basket. That may be carrying it to extremes. I don't do that any more."
Anderson also remembers blowing his saxophone as a visiting player prepared to shoot. "I apparently hit a lucky note that sounded like the shot clock. The player didn't shoot - he just threw the ball down."
The ref confiscated the doctor's saxophone.
When the Jazz are ahead, Anderson confines himself to less intrusive gestures, such as mocking a visiting player's tattoos - anything to get him rattled.
Although most ignore the comments, an occasional player will angrily respond, suggesting that for a couple of seconds he took his mind off the game.
The doctor realizes that the slightest physical contact with a referee would bar him from every future NBA game.
During one game, security people tried to throw him out on the grounds that such contact had occurred. When he admitted to having been on the court, officials declared he had been at the top of the key.
Fortunately for Anderson, the videotapes afterward proved he had not touched the referee. So he was kicked out of his seat but not out of the arena.
NBA officials have ruled out Anderson's blow-up toys, bean bags, saxophone and trumpet. This year, they even vetoed his rubber chicken, even though he considers it his best good luck charm.
Anderson said, "How much space, how much obstruction can you cause with a rubber chicken?"
The refs claimed no one had ever brought a rubber chicken to an NBA game before, meaning that a person who brings one "stands out."
Responding in vintage junior high style, Anderson picked up 50 rubber chickens for the next game, then passed them around to other fans. "I haven't had any problem since with the rubber chicken," he says.
The strange double life of Richard Anderson - eminent surgeon by day, screaming Jazz fanatic by night - goes on.
Whenever possible, he travels to out-of-state games. On home-game days in his office, medical procedures mysteriously go smoothly, and he is finished with his surgery in time to get to the Delta Center.
Often embarrased at his antics, Anderson's wife extracted a promise from him earlier this year that a Ute victory in the NCAA Finals combined with a Jazz victory in the NBA Finals would transform him into a rational, quiet basketball fan - one who eschews exhibitionism.
Fortunately, he says, such a frightening prescription need not be filled.