"I am not a doctor who is a clown. I am a clown who is a doctor." -- Patch Adams, in an interview with People Magazine's on-line edition.
Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams. Founder of the Gesundheit! Institute, a project dedicated to free and friendly personal health care for everyone who comes to it. Patch believes that laughter is incredibly beneficial to health. Accordingly, he is most commonly seen dressed up as a clown, making silly jokes and trying to get a laugh out of his patients.
In 1963, after his uncle's suicide, Patch was checked in to a mental ward at Fairfax Hospital in Virginia by his mother, Anna Adams, after his own attempt at suicide. There, he roomed with a man named Rudy, who suffered from hallucinations and a fear of squirrels. Rather than simply ignoring Rudy, or perhaps yelling at him to stop, Patch decided to play with Rudy, and have fun. Together, they managed to overcome Rudy's fear. This showed Patch "how easy it was to be intimate with anybody." Not long after, Patch left the hospital.
Patch then enrolled at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. At GWU, he spent three or four nights a week at bars, attempting to figure out the reason why each person was there. Later, he turned to political protest. He vigorously opposed the Vietnam War, and called himself a concientious objector.
During that time, Patch began to formulate the idea of a place where people could come and receive health care free of charge. No third party funds would be accepted for payment, and the place would not carry any malpractice insurance. He envisioned a friendly, cheerful place that people weren't afraid to come to, unlike hospitals, whi ch do inspire fear in many people. This would be the beginning of his lifelong goal: The Gesundheit! Institute.
Currently, Patch is collecting donations to build Gesundheit!. He is also a highly-requested speaker, charging $15,000 for one speaking engagement, which goes directly to Gesundheit!. In return, Gesundheit! pays Patch a salary of $61,200 per year. He has 2 sons, Atomic Zagnut, born in 1975, and Lars Zig, born in 1989.
For more information about Gesundheit!, visit http://www.patchadams.org/