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Going to the doctor can be scary for kids, so one Forsyth County practice transformed their office into Hogwarts.
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A sorting hat from the Harry Potter book series sits nearby Cumming Pediatric Group employee Yvette Thompson. - photo by Brian Paglia

The first clue something is different at Cumming Pediatric Group is the front door. The double-glass doors are covered in red-brick paper, and a sign on the right one reads “Hogwarts Express.”

Walk inside, and a world of Harry Potter awaits patients and their families.

The tree that normally envelopes the front desk has been turned into the Whomping Willow. A sorting hat sits nearby. Hedwig, Harry’s pet owl, is perched on top of a cabinet (with letters ready to deliver). There’s a rack for invisibility cloaks and a cabinet of potions. The nurses’ station is a Quidditch area with a flying Golden Snitch, broom and Quidditch World Cup posters.

Walk down one hall and a patient will find Professor Severus Snape. Walk down another and they’ll find Dobby, the house-elf.

Every detail comes from the series of massively successful movies based on the fantasy novels by J.K. Rowling about the life of a boy wizard and his adventures with friends from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

“Everybody’s reactions are a lot of fun,” said Amanda Walburg, who does billing and social media for the practice.

Cumming Pediatric Group’s office is normally festive, with walls covered in bright murals and a front desk designed like a tree house, and the staff regularly gets in the spirit with themed days. This year they’ve dressed up as superheroes and zoo animals. There was Sports Day, where staff wore apparel of the college they attended, and USA Day, where they dressed in red, white and blue for the Fourth of July.

But the practice agonizes over what to do for Halloween.

“It’s one of the most fun pediatric holidays that you can have,” said Panyavee Khan, MD, one of the practice’s providers.

Khan drew inspiration from her own passion for the Potter series. Khan calls herself a “Harry Potter-head.” Last spring, she and her daughter decided to take an impromptu trip to the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios in Orlando.

Khan and her family have traveled to Universal before, and she always brings back some gift for the Cumming Pediatric Group staff. Khan decided on lanyards in the colors of the four houses to which students at Hogwarts are divided into in the book series. Before she left, Khan had the staff back in Forsyth County take an online personality quiz to determine which house they belonged to. Khan is a Ravenclaw.

From there, the Halloween theme was clear.

“We’re going to make this into Hogwarts,” Khan said.

Khan began ordering decorations about two months ago. Two weeks ago, Khan, Walburg and another employee, Nomiki Lisgaris, arrived at the office on a Saturday morning and began work on the transformation.

They worked all day Saturday. Khan came back the next day, with her daughter, and worked another three hours. Khan made mandrakes, a human-like plant creature in the series, out of clay in her kitchen at home.

“I had a lot of fun,” Khan said.

That Monday, Walburg set up an iPad at the front desk to capture peoples’ reactions. They ranged from amazement to confusion, and they came from children and parents alike. A video tour of the office posted to Cumming Pediatric Group’s Facebook page has more than 10,000 views.

“The parents’ reactions are just as good,” Lisgaris said. “They forget that they’re checking in. It’s really fun watching both sides.”

Lisgaris’ favorite decoration is the most visually compelling, and the one that also captures the essence of the practice’s endeavor.

To the right after entering the double-doors is a hallway is covered from floor to ceiling to look like the ancient stone corridors of Hogwarts. Above hang banners for the four houses.

Lisgaris said even the staff feels transported into the world of the fantasy series when it walks down the hallway.

They hope it does the same for their patients.

“Leave all your everyday worries behind you,” Khan said. “Maybe forget that you’re coming to get a flu shot.”