Patch Adams

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For the 1998 film, see Patch Adams (film).
Hunter Doherty "Patch" Adams
Patch Adams
Adams in Anaheim, California, May 15, 2008
Born (1945-05-28) May 28, 1945 (age 69)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Nationality United States
Education M.D., Virginia Commonwealth University
Alma mater George Washington University
Home town Arlington, Virginia
Spouse(s) Linda Edquist (1975–98; divorced)
Children Atomic Zagnut Adams
Lars Zig Edquist Adams

Hunter Doherty "Patch" Adams (born May 28, 1945, in Washington, D.C.) is an American physician, social activist, clown and author. He founded the Gesundheit! Institute in 1971. Each year he organizes a group of volunteers from around the world to travel to various countries where they dress as clowns in an effort to bring humor to orphans, patients, and other people.[1]

Adams is currently based in Urbana, Illinois. In collaboration with the institute, he promotes an alternative health care model, not funded by insurance policies.[1]

Early life[edit]

Adams had a difficult childhood. His father, an officer in the United States Army, had fought in Korea, and died while stationed in Germany when Adams was a teenager.[1] After his father's death, Adams returned to the United States with his mother and brother. Adams has stated that, upon his return, he encountered institutional injustice which made him a target for bullies at school. As a result, Adams was unhappy and became actively suicidal. After being hospitalized three times in one year for wanting to end his life, he decided "you don't kill yourself, stupid; you make revolution."[2]

Early career[edit]

After graduating (1963) from Wakefield High School,[3] Adams completed pre-med coursework at George Washington University. He began medical school without an undergraduate degree, and earned his Doctor of Medicine degree at Virginia Commonwealth University (Medical College of Virginia) in 1971. In the late 1960s one of his closest friends (a man, not a woman as depicted in the Patch Adams film) was murdered. Convinced of the powerful connection between environment and wellness, he believes the health of an individual cannot be separated from the health of the family, community, and the world. While working in an adolescent clinic at MCV, in his final year of med school, he met Linda Edquist, a fellow VCU student who volunteered in the clinic. Soon after graduation, Patch, Linda, and friends founded the Gesundheit! Institute (originally known to many as the Zanies), which ran as a free community hospital for 12 years.

Adams and Edquist married in 1975 and had two sons, Atomic Zagnut "Zag" Adams and Lars Zig Edquist Adams. The couple divorced in 1998 in which he pays $3,400 a month in alimony and his ex-wife also receives a share of the royalties from his two books, the recently released House Calls and Gesundheit![4]

Gesundheit! Institute[edit]

Main article: Gesundheit! Institute

A revamped Gesundheit! Institute, envisioned as a free, full-scale hospital and health care eco-community, is planned on 316 acres (128 ha) in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Its goal is to integrate a traditional hospital with alternative medicine, with the organization developing educational programs in sustainable systems design targeted to medical students and the general public.

Since the 1990s Adams has supported the Ithaca Health Alliance (IHA),[5] founded as the Ithaca Health Fund (IHF) by Paul Glover. In January 2006 IHA launched the Ithaca Free Clinic, bringing to life key aspects of Adams' vision. Adams has also given strong praise to Health Democracy, Glover's book written and published the same year.

In October 2007, Adams and the Gesundheit Board unveiled its campaign to raise $1 million towards building a Teaching Center and Clinic on its land in West Virginia. The Center and Clinic will enable Gesundheit to see patients and teach health care design.

Adams urges medical students to develop compassionate connections with their patients. His prescription for this kind of care relies on humor and play, which he sees as essential to physical and emotional health. Ultimately, Adams wants the Gesundheit! Institute to open a 40-bed hospital in rural West Virginia that offers free, holistic care to anyone who wants it.[6]

Adams was awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award on January 29, 1997.[7]

In 2008, Adams agreed to become honorary chair of the "International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment" or IAACM. In a number of his speeches and essays, Martin Luther King, Jr. had called for such an IAACM, but none was ever created. MindFreedom International, a nonprofit coalition that Gesundheit! belongs to as a sponsor group, launched the IAACM to support "creative maladjustment" and social change.[8]

Adams still leads trips to cheer kids up all over the world. He also teaches at one session of Wavy Gravy's circus camp Camp Winnarainbow.

In media[edit]

The 1998 film Patch Adams was based on Adams' life and views on medicine. Adams has criticized the film, saying it eschewed an accurate representation of his beliefs in favor of commercial viability. He said that out of all aspects of his life and activism, the film portrayed him merely as a funny doctor.[9] Patch Adams also said of Robin Williams in an interview, "He made $21 million for four months of pretending to be me, in a very simplistic version, and did not give $10 to my free hospital. Patch Adams, the person, would have, if I had Robin's money, given all $21 million to a free hospital in a country where 80 million cannot get care."[10]

However, in another interview, Adams did clarify that he did not dislike Williams,[9] and Williams has actively supported St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for several years.[11]

The 2003 Bollywood film Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.[12] was inspired by Adams' life and his unconventional methods of treating patients. The film brought his methods to the forefront in India and Pakistan where conventional methods were predominant.

As a speaker, Dr. Adams travels around the globe lecturing about his medicine methods.[13]



  1. ^ a b c "Doctor in a Clown Suit Battles Ills of His Profession". New York Times. December 15, 1998. 
  2. ^ Interview with Patch Adams
  3. ^ "Alumni News Wakefield High School" (PDF). Fall 2008. p. 5. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  4. ^ Foege, Jason (February 1, 1999). "The Doctor Is Out There". People Magazine. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  5. ^ "G! { Links }". Archived from the original on December 10, 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-16. "* Ithaca Health Fund * Member-owned Non-profit Mutual Health Security *" 
  6. ^ Marsh, Jason (Spring 2008). "Playing Doctor: An interview with Patch Adams". Greater Good Magazine (Berkeley, California: Greater Good Science Center) IV (4). Archived from the original on June 17, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-16. "Adams has been raising money for the hospital for nearly three decades. In the meantime, he continues to lecture and lead workshops, often urging medical students to develop an ethic of care built on forming compassionate connections with their patients. His prescription for this kind of care relies on humor and play, which he sees as essential to physical and emotional health" 
  7. ^ "The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Recipients List". Archived from the original on June 12, 2010. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  8. ^ "MindFreedom International launches IAACM". Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  9. ^ a b "Real Patch Adams – Movie True Story". January 2, 2012. 
  10. ^ Riccardi, Katia. "Il sorriso serio di Patch Adams 'Non chiamatela clownterapia'". la Repubblica May 4, 2010
  11. ^
  12. ^ Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
  13. ^

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