What Ever Happened to Patch Adams?
What DID ever happen to Patch Adams? I remember the movie, the star, the eccentric character he portrayed, and an idea; humor, laughter, silliness as a form of treatment for medical issues. That’s just ridiculous. Where’s the science? The studies? Who’s going to pay for this nonsense?
I did what anyone who has a question does these days, I googled it. I found a website that led me to the answers. http://www.patchadams.org/
Patch Adams is alive and well and he continues to bring happiness to the afflicted around the world. He continues to dream about opening a free hospital for those that seek his kind of treatment. Dr. Adams is a busy man, traveling with a band of silly clowns to refugee camps, orphanages, and hospitals all over the world. The website provided an address. Dr. Adams answers all letters, it said, so I wrote him a letter and he responded! Imagine my delight when a package arrived in the mail with 2 books, a video, a newsletter, a handwritten letter, and the answers to the questions I posed!
Dr. Adams writes, “I’ve been at our project obsessively for every day for 45 years (thinking it would take 4),” he continues, “Every second of the 45 years has been thrilling -and none of the way I thought it would be.”
So we ran a pilot hospital in our home 1971-83, 20 adults, 3 dogs, and our kids in a 6 bedroom house -with 500-1000 people in our home each month with 5-50 overnight guests/night. Never charged money (we worked outside jobs to pay to practice medicine) -no 3rd party -no malpractice insurance -as a family doctor I gave 3-4 hour initial interviews and visited their homes -and integrated all healing arts -against the law -whee!
After 12 years, I realized we’d have to go public to raise funds -went public -closed doors -and for 31 years I’ve been on the road 300 days/year -81 countries -5 million miles -150 clown trips (to countless refugee camps, etc).
It has all been thrilling every second. Imagine having 45 years to fantasize about your fantasy hospital? It’s a humdinger! I think we’ll be funded soon! Yahoo!
- Were you always a fan of clowns?: I love fun -some clowns are fun. I am a clown who is a doctor
- Is laughter truly the best medicine?: I think friendship is the best medicine
- Do you think the name, Gesundheit Institute was both humorous and a nod to your time as a child in Germany? (His father was in the US military and stationed in Germany): Both -And I’m a scholar of cartoons and Gesundheit is the most used punchline in cartoons -I have >150 cartoons using it
- How has the vision of the Gesundheit Institute changed now that you have embarked on a global mission?: I’ve had one dream for 45 years -not one day off. I designed a hospital that eliminates 90% of the cost, where all permanent staff live together as a communal eco-village -eliminating 85% of their environmental footprint, described in my first book, Gesundheit
- Do you think the Gesundheit Institute, its plans, its ideals will survive even when you are gone?: It has to get built first -then yes it will. I thought it would all be built in 4 years (1975). The movie promised to build -gave me nothing
- How can parts of the Gesundheit Institute vision/ideals be applied in the current medical system? Have you seen any examples of this happening?: Our current system is a greedy vulgar system -can’t be fixed. Yes, there are many people who do the best they can in the horrible system -like your pal, Dr. Sortino
- What would be the perfect society? Would it include perfect health?: A world free of capitalism -a feminine world -bathed in perfect justice and one for all people-I don’t know what perfect health looks like
- Do doctors become doctors to heal others or to heal themselves? Or both?: I think, today a lot of doctors go into medicine for a lucrative job -super sub-specialty so they can be 9-5 -not real doctors
- Primary care doctors commit suicide at higher rates that any other profession (used to be dentists). What can we as doctors do about this?: I would never practice in the vulgar universal greed of US big business of medicine-no suicide when the practice is exactly like your fantasy
As I navigate the system that I find myself in, often feeling disgruntled, frustrated, disillusioned, I reflect on Patch Adams’ dream, his fantasy of a free hospital -free of the “greedy vulgar system” in which good doctors and weary patients find themselves. It inspires me to think a little more outside of the box than I did before. Thank you, Patch, for inspiring me to be the kind of doctor I want to be -one that finds joy in my work, encourages happiness in my patients, and finds ways to laugh with them in spite of it all. It’s in those moments of shared laughter that I feel we are a part of something bigger, like a revolution in healthcare.
If you would like to help Patch realize his dream, and if you are also inspired, check out his website, blog, clowning trips, and festivals held at the future site of Gesundheit Institute.
Here are the links:
Photo credit: Felipe Daniel Reis