Hunter "Patch" Adams, the subject of the 1998 movie "Patch Adams," starring Robin Williams, will speak at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 2, at the Virginia Tech Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center Auditorium. A reception and book signing will follow.
Adams, a medical doctor and a professional clown, is equally renowned for his activism targeted at reforming America's healthcare system. As a creative response to what he describes as "spiraling costs, dispirited care givers, and alienated patients," Adams founded Gesundheit Institute in 1972. The facility eventually found a permanent home in Hillsboro, W.Va.
Adams checked himself into a mental hospital as a teenager after he tried to commit suicide. Very upset by the way patients were treated, he decided to go to medical school to become a doctor hoping to apply humor and respect for the individual to patient treatment. At the Medical College of Virginia, he was criticized in his official record for "excessive happiness" and was reprimanded for unauthorized treatment of patients with clown antics.
Initially resistant to publicity, he began receiving media coverage about his unorthodox clinic in the mid-80s and eventually wrote a book about his work in 1993. In the book, Adams explains his humor-driven prescriptions and why he is willing to dress like a gorilla, fill a room full of balloons, or load a tub with noodles to elicit a smile, a spiritual connection, or a simple moment of pleasure from a patient.
"I've always thought it strange and unfortunate that people think nothing of acting angry and grumpy but are self-conscious about demonstrating positive feelings," Adams said. "We all know how important love is, yet how often is it really emoted or exhibited? What so many sick people in this world suffer from — loneliness, boredom, and fear — can't be cured with a pill."
Cosponsors for Adams' visit to Blacksburg are the Tekoa Schools, Virginia Tech Service-Learning Center, YMCA at Virginia Tech, Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill New River Valley Affiliate, New River Valley Community Service Board, and University Unions and Student Activities at Virginia Tech.
The event is open to the public. General admission tickets are on sale for $15, while student tickets are $10. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the following locations: Virginia Tech YMCA at 312 Squires Student Center, (540) 231-3734, and at Lancaster House, 403 Washington Street, (540) 961-5217; Tekoa Schools at 446 Depot Street, Christiansburg, (540) 381-8677; or Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, 2265 Kraft Drive in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, (540) 231-4000.