Patch Inspiration

Dr. Patch Adams

Medical doctor; Clown; Performer; Social Activist; Founder and Director of the Gesundheit Institute, a holistic medical community that has provided free medical care to thousands of patients since it began in 1971; Author of Gesundheit! & House Calls; Moving Speaker.


“Extraordinary! One man I can look up to and respect,” “Incredibly mind blowing and memorable,” and “Incredibly inspiring, amazing human being, invaluable to hear him first hand” are among the words heard from participants after experiencing Patch Adams, the real person behind the hit movie Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams.

Patch is both a medical doctor and a clown, but he is also a social activist who has devoted 30 years to changing America’s health care system, a system which he describes as expensive and elitist.

He believes that laughter, joy and creativity are an integral part of the healing process and therefore true health care must incorporate such life. Doctors and patients in his model relate to each other on the basis of mutual trust, and patients receive plenty of time from their doctors. Allopathic doctors and practitioners of alternative medicine will work side by side. If you think that all sounds like a utopian impossibility, it isn’t. Patch and his colleagues practiced medicine at the Gesundheit Institute together in West Virgina that way for 12 years in what he calls their pilot project. They saw 15,000 patients. Patch Adams has devoted his life to the study of what makes people happy.

Through the success of this program at the Arlington, Virginia location, a model health care facility is being planned on 310 acres purchased in Pocahontas County, WV. The Institute will include a 40-bed hospital, a theater, arts and crafts shops, horticulture and vocational therapy. Over five years ago, Dr. Adams and staff temporarily stopped seeing patients so that they could coordinate plans for raising $5 Million needed for the Institute’s permanent and expanded home, a model health care community. Currently planned is an immediate phase of this dream, a $400,000 WV facility so that their medical service to patients can resume within the next two years.

The Institute addresses, by action, four major issues in health care delivery: the rising cost of care, dehumanization of medicine, malpractice suits, and abuses of third-party insurance system.

Dr. Adams adds to his training as a physician, his experience as a street clown. In working with health and mental health professionals, he explores the relationship between humor and therapy using his unique blend of knowledge, showmanship and hands on teaching techniques. Says Dr. Adams, I interpret my experience in life as being happy. I want, as a doctor, to say it does matter to your health to be happy. It may be the most important health factor in your life.

Patch Adams, M.D., is a nationally known speaker on wellness, laughter, and humor as well as on health care and health care systems. He approaches the issues of personal, community, and global health with zestful exuberance, according to Time Magazine. Dr. Adams believes that the most revolutionary act one can commit in our world is to be happy.

Patch’s Awards and Prizes

  • World Humor, Rufus C Browning Award, 1987
  • The Temple Award of Creative Altruism, Institute of Noetic Sciences, 1993
  • The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award, 1997
  • 1st Annual Doug Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award in Therapeutic Humor, American Association of Therapeutic Humor, 1999
  • Humanitarian Award Oasis Hospital 1999
  • The Jude Award—Heal the People, Heal the World, 1999
  • The Chapel of Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Annual Humanitarian Award, 2000
  • The Caring Institute’s National Caring Award, 2000
  • Assisi St. Francis Pilgrim of Peace Award, 2000
  • University of South Carolina  The Search for Six Award, 2001
  • Frederick II Peace Award, 2002
  • Joe Thorne Gilbert MD Lectureship, University of Texas, 2002-03
  • Humanitarian of the Year 2003, Christian Connections for International Health
  • Death Penalty Focus, Norman Felton and Denise Aubuchon Humanitarian Award, 2003
  • American Medical Student Association Health Justice Award, 2006
  • Bastyr Naturopathic University, Honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic medicine, 2006
  • University of Bologna Honorary Doctorate of Pedagogy, 2007
  • International Lion’s Club Foundation, Melvin Jones Fellow for Humanitarian Services, 2007


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