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Patch Adams: The Unique Advocacy of a Clown Doctor




“Our job is improving the quality of life, not just delaying death.”

This is one of the many quotes that displayed Dr. Patch Adams’ passion to change society's view on the medical field, one meaningful step at a time. Through his inspirational mindset and principles, director and screenwriter Tom Shadyac created an astounding film featuring some real events that occurred in Patch’s life. Renowned actor Robin Williams portrayed the main character, a once-suicidal physician who gained a new, bright perspective on patient care during his stay in a mental institution. The viewers witnessed how the character’s sense of humor and comedic antics had touched countless lives. Let us delve deeper into how Patch actually accomplished this!



Who is Patch Adams?

Hunter Doherty Adams was born on May 28, 1945, a time when World War II was still in progress. This meant that he spent most of his childhood living in army bases because his father was a United States Army officer who was assigned to fight in the war. After his father’s passing, Adams moved to Virginia where he was severely bullied and abused by his peers in school. He visited the hospital a few times in order to receive the proper treatment for his wounds. With frequent contemplation and attempts of suicide, his mental health was also not at its best condition especially since his uncle had suffered a tragic fate, his romantic relationship had abruptly ended, and his educational attainment had been put to a halt. Fortunately, he decided to be admitted to a mental institution instead of taking his own life. There, he observed that the admitted patients in the facility were left alone with inadequate interactions with others. Thus, he decided to commit his life to build friendships with the patients and spreading happiness and compassion along the way. According to him, the best way to fulfill this mission would be to become a medical professional in order to conceptualize effective plans for renewing the healthcare system.


Additionally, Adams believes that the term “doctor” refers to an individual who is not only skilled in concepts and practices within the medical field but also in empathizing with the experiences of the patients. A doctor must have the responsibility of providing emotional support to the patients, reminding them that they are not alone in such hardships. It is about making an effort to connect with patients instead of treating each encounter as a business transaction.


It is also fascinating to note that Adams acquired the nickname “Patch” in the mental institution. A patient who became his friend there coined that name because Adams patched up the patient’s life through his immensely positive energy and their friendship. The patient no longer succumbed to loneliness with Patch by their side.


What is the purpose of Gesundheit Institute?

Since Patch’s goal is to ensure that patients are provided with the utmost care, love, and happiness, he founded a non-profit healthcare organization called the Gesundheit Institute. This focuses on a therapeutic approach because he believes that the body would be able to treat its illnesses without the utilization of prescription medications and drugs. Through the facilitation of friendship and laughter in terminally ill patients, their sufferings and burdens would be alleviated. This notion alters the concept of the hospital, as the emphasis is placed on relationships and interdependence instead of a money-making business. Therefore, the Gesundheit Institute is built on several principles. Firstly, patients and their families should not be required to pay for the services that they receive. This is a step towards financial peace of mind and the elimination of worries concerning debts. Secondly, there would be no insurance covering malpractices committed by medical professionals in order to increase the level of trust in the healthcare community. Thirdly, building relationships with patients on a more intimate level is encouraged through the presence of interviews that last up to three to four hours. Fourthly, the health and welfare of the caregivers are also prioritized. Lastly, complementary medicines like acupuncture and meditation are welcomed and may be used in the treatment strategies.


Patch’s dream hospital is located on a piece of land in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Due to his radical and unconventional ideas, he is still continuing to acquire funds to support its construction. Adopting a communal style of the healthcare system, this project is called the hospital building or a hospital with walls that has 44 beds and a teaching center. On the other hand, there is also a hospital without walls called the Gesundheit Global Outreach Clowns (GO!CLOWNS) wherein volunteers are given the opportunity to participate in outreaches located in various countries around the world. Clown trips or humanitarian visits to orphanages, refugee camps, homes for the aged, and many others would involve playing games, singing and dancing to music, as well as creating artistic materials. These would definitely lighten up the overall mood of the community and create new, exciting memories whilst promoting trust and love.




With all that being said, we can see how Patch is truly a beacon of hope and change in the medical field. Even though he had undergone countless challenges, he still persevered and stood his ground to work towards his goals. We hope to see more individuals who would find their respective passions and dedicate their efforts to creating a happier and more peaceful world just like Patch. Uniting ourselves through basic human interaction, compassion, and empathy can truly bring forth fruitful outcomes that would benefit generations to come. Let us help in revolutionizing the healthcare system!




I hope you were inspired by Patch!

Oriana Tolentino



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