Christopher K. Hull, DO, The Hat Doc

"Hey Doc, why are you wearing that hat?" is the first question asked by a new patient in the office of Christopher K. Hull, DO.

Many times, in the waiting room, one will hear, "He always wears a hat!" The second question is "How many do you have?" closely followed by "Where do you put them all?" as they peruse the hats displayed on the Hat Wall of Honor.

People barely notice the certificates lining the walls that indicate Dr. Hull served on the AOBOS Board for nine years and is currently a director on the AOAO Board. Never mind that he has other awards and recognitions. It is the hat that gets the questions.

hatdoc1

The Hat Doc, as he is known, explains that the collection started in 1995 when a patient brought a Russian soldier's garrison hat from their conflict with Afghanistan. As he wore it around that day, he noticed each patient appeared to be less anxious. Two thousand, twenty-eight (2,028) hats later, Hull is never without a hat, entertaining the patients, nurses, staff and all that see the it, however crazy it may be.

The hats are entertaining, but their effect on those who see them is often more. It is a chance to laugh, a moment to escape, an opportunity to discuss something other than the fears of their health, an entry point. And for Hull, he enjoys the effect on the people that see them as well. He derives energy  by seeing their reaction when he wears something unusual like a Tibetan crown encircled in skulls, purchased in Santa Fe or a Native American headdress, custom made for him by patient Donna Thundercloud! The "Hat for the Day" is chosen from the observances for the day as documented in the book "Chase's Calendar of Events".

More than just a head cover, many hats have proven to be more as this next story exemplifies. A patient made a catholic bishop's mitre for Hull. While wearing it through the hospital hallways for rounds, a woman asked him to come into her father's room. As requested he entered, Hull "blessed" the man's bones which had him laughing before long. As the HatDoc left the room, the daughter asked him to return again, visiting with another hat. She explained that her father had a stroke, not smiling for the six weeks since admission and the hat caused him to laugh out loud! Twice each week, the hats brought joy, laughter and hope until he was discharged.

hatdoc2

The Hat Walls of Honor are a collection of about five thousand Polaroid photos displayed throughout the office in frames. Should anyone come to the office wearing a hat, a photo is taken with the HatDoc in tandem and framed with other snapshots. Now that there is scarce Polaroid film and cameras, the iPhone records the two hatted people for digital viewing. Patients like seeing people they know and the variety of hats that are in the photos!

Dr. Hull also has a tradition of posing with the medical students, P.A. students, nursing students, residents and visiting doctors with hats that are there in the office (there is never enough room in his house to store them all there). A copy of the photo is sent to the parents of the students to let them know that they are learning about orthopedics. Fact is they also learn plenty about dealing with people.

hatdoc3

This hobby is a wonderful diversion for The HatDoc as he begins his thirtieth year in practice. Having graduated TCOM'79 and five years internship and residency at Mount Clemens General Hospital in Michigan, Dr. Hull began his practice with Nurse Karen in Fort Worth in 1984. Of his two daughters, one  enjoys working with the practice while the other is the Director of Education at the Dallas Theater Center and recently awarded a grant from Michelle Obama at the White House. Having twin sons, one is an engineer at Lockheed Martin achieving his Masters and Certification in Security Engineering and the other is a Certified Surgical Tech and first assists with Dr. Hull for total joints. He is the proud father of Hull's two granddaughters. The kids frequently answer questions about the hats and enjoy wearing them for family photos.

hatdoc4

Looking towards the future, Hull has created a non-profit association and is expecting to open "Hats of the World Museum".  Plans include educating the local children about Texas history with The Texas History Wall and about sports with The Helmet Wall. There are several exhibits up in the office already. One is the set of Irish, Scottish, English and Welch military headwear from the 1880s to date. This collection of 137 hats was acquired from a friend downsizing into an apartment.  Many of the hats in the collection are donated as were the fourteen hats from the Philippines thanks to Lyn and Tom Hoeft, DO, seen here on the wall of one of the exam rooms.

hatdoc5

It's all about the search, the hunt, "The Hat Quest"!! The hats are a wide variety found many times like the Haitian voodoo headdress HatDoc and Mark Triana, DO discovered in Belmont, N.C. After doing an onsite orthopedic certification exam and prior to driving back to Pawley's Island, Hull informed Triana of a short stop at an Antique Mall. There they found many interesting antiques as well as some unusual headwear. The owner was enthralled with the hat collection history and indicated if they could get a very unique headdress down safely, it would be a donation to the collection! Triana was very impressed that she was just giving us the headdress! The picture says it all!

hatdoc6

So many interesting stories surround the collection with the best occurring in 2006 when Dr. Hull traded hats with Pope Benedict XVI! Yes, on pilgrimage to The Holy Land and Rome, the current Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth encouraged him to buy the white zucchetto.  At the audience the next day, with the help of a priest from Brazil, five little Italian women, two priests from Poland, and students from Steubenville, PA, this did happen. "The Pope took the hat out of my hand while removing his and handed his hat right to me," recalls The HatDoc, remembering the moment as an experience without equal!!

pope

As members of The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcre of Jerusalem, this was truly an honor much appreciated!!!

hatdoc7

The Hat Doc recognizes the importance of the right hat and how hats frame the impression we have of the wearer. It is also so very important to realize the fun of a diversion and the reward that comes with being able to share it with all people! Dr. Hull hopes to practice 40 years, as many of his hero mentors have done, and, that the collection continues to grow!

One day look for "Hats of the World Museum" in Fort Worth!

Back to top