By BILL ASENJO
Friday, October 09, 1998
Do you like the academy award-winning actor Robin Williams? Does free
medical care sound like a good idea to you? How about a movie starring
Robin Williams based on the true story of a doctor who for 27 years has
given free medical care?
The movie, Patch Adams, was released by Universal Pictures in December,
1998. The film is based on a real-life Virginia doctor, Hunter â€œPatchâ€
Adams, M.D., who has been providing humor along with free holistic
health care for thousands of patients since 1971.Understanding the
healing power of laughter, Patch often arrives for appointments in a
For Adams, health lies not in the absence of disease, but in a â€œhappy,
vibrant, exuberant life.â€ Describing his profession, he says, â€œIf you
like people, if you like human interaction, medicine is enchanting. The
ideal patient is an intimate friend for life... Maybe intimacy is what
life is all about.â€ He adds, â€œI love people; and medicine is simply
friend after friend after friend.â€
(LEFT) Dr. Patch Adams With His Clown Friends on a FUNdraiser
â€œWe never charged money, or carried malpractice insurance;
believing that these are the horror of a modern medical practice. The
work was supported by part time jobs. We found that the joy of
practicing medicine unencumbered is so great that it is even worth
-Patch Adams, The Joy of Service
Patch helped found the Gesundheit! Institute in West Virginia. A model
for solving the problems of health care delivery, the Institute is a
non-profit, holistic health care community. In 1994, Patch was honored
with the Institute of Noetic Sciences Award for Creative Altruism.
Now, about the movie: Described as a drama/ comedy, it focuses on five
years of the doctor's early life. It stars Robin Williams as Patch
Adams, Monica Potter, and Peter Coyote. Patch was invited to spend a
week with Robin and his family at their home so that Robin could study
him for the role. â€œRobin is the actor I wanted,â€ said Patch. During his
visit, they were two of a kind, as they roamed the hallways clowning
for very sick children at U.C. San Francisco Hospital.
Tom Shadyac, the director, co-producers, Mike Farrell (TV MASH fame),
and Marsha Williams (Robin's wife), and Robin all say they want the
movie to be about, â€œjoyful, relentless service in a humorous context.â€
The doctor hopes the film and surrounding publicity will help raise
money for the ongoing construction of the 40-bed medical facility and
hospital on his 31 acres in West Virginia, and the Gesundheit!
Institute, where care, not cost, will always be the only concern.
By- Bill Asenjo, PhD candidate, The University of Iowa
For more information contact the Gesundheit! Institute: (304) 653-4338.