Health HavenDharma Haven
Hunter "Patch" Adams, a former mental health patient, decided to get his own M.D. In the process, he developed a new approach to medicine that went around conventional procedures, but was very effective; patients loved it. He approaches his "patients" without arrogance and coercion, talking to them with humor and humanity.
"When a person comes to me, unless the problem is an arterial bleed, which has to be addressed that second, the first goal is to have a friendship happen out of that relationship. So we spend three to four hours in the first meeting. We might go for a walk. If you like to fish, maybe we will go fishing. If you like to run, we run together, and I'll interview you while we are running. By the end of that time, I hope we have a trust, a friendship starting to develop, and from there we can proceed."
Adams method is intended to benefit health professionals as well as patients and their families. Indeed, he may have a solution to the high rates of stress-related early deaths among American physicians:
"From the start, it was obvious to me that we had to have fun in what we were doing. Forget the patient, it had to be fun for us. Life has to be fun! I saw what life was like when I was serious. I had ulcers and I wanted to kill myself. That was me as a serious person. That failed."
"As a healer I hate this idea that the healing interaction is a draining one. If friendship, as it is for me, is the most important thing in the world, and the healer's life is really a stream of intimacies, when a patient sits with you and tells you the worst stories that could burn you out, they are also giving you the greatest trust. I focus on the trust, respect and love they give me rather than the pain of their story... I'm there to be a good listener first and to be a good friend, and then to do what intuitively and scientifically both come to mind."
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A Health Care System in PainPart II, "A Prescription for Health and Healing," tells the story of the creation of a totally free hospital and health-care center as an example of how the principles set out in Part I might be applied. It began in 1971, when Adams and a few of his like-minded colleagues founded the Gesundheit Institute in Northern Virginia. During the next twelve years, they operated a home-based family medical practice and managed to treat more than 15,000 people without payment, malpractice insurance, or formal facilities. By 1983, the need for a real facility had become clear, and Adams shifted his focus to raising money to fund his dream of a fantasy hospital and to promote health and wellness on a global scale.
Dr Adams expressed his vision for a facility that would embody ideals like the following: Not charging any money, to eliminate the distorting effect of greed on health care in our society; Carrying no malpractice insurance; Staff and patients living together in an environment that is not only hospital but also home -- farm, theatre, crafts centre, recreational facility, in a beautiful material setting, with the hospital ae especially silly, playful place; Having respect for and working in cooperation with healers from all traditions; Holding to the fundamental goal of living healthy lives and not just conquering sickness.
The architect for the new fee-free hospital was asked to "make it silly," with trap doors, eyeball-shaped exam rooms and chandeliers to swing on.
With the attention his ideas are getting since the release of Patch Adams, a film based on his life which starred Robin Williams, he and his friends may well get the help they need to realize their dream.
For more information on Patch Adams' ideas and the progress of the Gesundheit! Institute, see the Resources section, below.
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How to be an ideal patient -- "As patients change from passive recipients of paternalistic care into active partners, I often hear them ask, 'How can I be a better patient?' "
The Wellness Show -- (Global Ideas Bank) Excerpts from interviews and other sources.
Nasal Diplomacy: A Funny Route to Peace -- "When I picture a Geneva talk I realize I must accept a Reagan and a Gorbachev as part of the team; but what if each of them brought their favorite silly person. I believe it would ease tension and open all up to vulnerability and commonality. Lighten up, world! Consider a career in nasal diplomacy."
Related Web Pages
Windhorse Associates -- Recovering From Psychosis at Home
"For all of its wonder drugs and dazzling technology, the medical profession seems to have strayed from the art of healing. Enter Patch Adams, doctor, clown and firm believer in the healing powers of humor, joy and simple listening. Decked out with a rubber nose and a silly hat, Patch practices free, fun-filled medicine at the Gesundheit Institute, where laughter is the rule and payments are the exception. His book very clearly points out the problems inherent in our current medical system: the slavery to money and technology, the myth of doctors as gods, and the removal of the human element. He then paints a picture of the ideal medical practice where doctor and patient relate as friends, where health and wellness are an integral part of community life, and where love and joy run through it all. I must confess that I have absolutely fallen in love with Patch just from reading his book. His idealism, love of life, sense of fun and commitment to helping build healthy, supportive, joyous communities rise out of the pages like a deep belly laugh. A truly delightful read!"
From The WomanSource Catalog & Review: Tools for Connecting the Community for Women; review by FGP , February 1, 1997
A courageous and dynamic healer and role model, Patch Adams guides us through difficult times while sharing insights into how we can encourage each other to feel healthier and happier. He also offers moral support and help for dealing with grief, depression, and loss.
"The greatest shortcoming of modern medicine is the loss of the house call. It is the biggest blow to the art of medicine in this centur y. Not only have patients lost their doctors' precious attention, but physicians have not found a replacement for this close relationship in hospital settings." "Having a meaningful connection to one's patients is crucial for the prevention of burnout."
Adams recommends that we all spend more quality time visiting
our loved ones who are ill or depressed. Spending more time with loved
ones -- and even visiting people whom we don't know -- does a lot to help
them feel better emotionally and physically. In addition to encouraging
such visits, Patch offers practical advice for making these visits enjoyable
and fulfilling for both the patient and visitor. He provides tips for promoting
our own healing and advises that we extend our compassion out to our communities
Illness and the Art of Creative Self-Expression: Stories and Exercises from the Arts for Those With Chronic Illness -- John Graham-Pole, Forward by Patch Adams
"As patients and practitioners challenge the very nature of Western medicine, unconventional doctors like the well-known Patch Adams become American heroes. Dr. John Graham-Pole, who has a conventional medical degree and specializes in chronic and terminal illness, is such a doctor. He has sought to humanize the care of patients by introducing the arts - music, dance, painting, theater, writing, puppetry, clowning, and magic - into the hospital setting. In this volume, inspiring stories illustrate how patients engaging in the arts respond better to physical setbacks, are more adept at expressing their emotions, and find more spiritual peace in the midst of their illness. "
on Video and DVDA movie based on the life of Hunter "Patch" Adams, focusing on his time in medical school at the University of Virginia.
Reviews of Patch Adams the movie:
Episode from The Doctor Is IN television series. 28 min.
"Art has been used over the centuries to help people accept
medical condition they cannot change, or find some spiritual lift during
difficult times. But increasingly, they're also being used in a scientifically
ordered manner to improve health in specific ways. Studies have shown that
arts can reduce pain, improve the health of pre-term babies, decrease the
severity of headaches and improve the speech of people who have had strokes.
This show profiles some examples, including a dance that evolved out of
dealing with AIDS, murals in a children's cancer clinic, Dr. Patch Adams,
a physician who is also a professional clown, music therapy for autistic
children and a woman with manic depressive illness who uses painting as
The Real Patch Adams -- documentary video
"This program intricately details medical doctor Patch Adams' life and unconventional medical philosophy...Commentary by Adams' supporters, social activists, and others who talk about their experiences and philosophy is equally telling. An excellent program to circulate with the popular movie, this might also find a spot in medical and nursing schools." -- Booklist
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For more information about Gesundheit Institute, please contact: Patch Adams, MD, Gesundheit Institute, 6855 Washington Blvd., Arlington, VA 22213, 703/525-8169, or volunteer coordinator Kathy Blomquist, Gesundheit Institute, HC 64, Box 167, Hillsboro, WV 24946, 304/653-4338.
Page revised on December 9, 2003