On Tuesday, “the real” Patch Adams spoke to a packed Hubell Auditorium as part of the Neilly Series.
Adams, founder and director of the Gesundheit! Institute, began practicing healing through love and attention more than 30 years ago. He opened his first hospital in a six-bedroom house with close friends. Though humble, the hospital was chock-full of patients in no time and, over 12 years, Adams served a total of 15,000 people.
Adams amused the audience even before words left his mouth with his multi-colored paisley shirt, bright smiley-face tie, orange pants and mismatched pink and orange socks.
Adams preaches healing via caring and loving over all other forms of medicine. His hospital did not cure in the traditional sense, as Patch has a zero tolerance policy for psychiatric medicine. According to Adams, people were cured when they were loved.
“For me depression is not an illness, it is a symptom of loneliness,” Adams said. At his unconventional hospital, Adams went to great lengths to cure this loneliness. He even went so far as to have “barf-alongs” with bulimic patients to make them feel more at ease.
“An ideal patient is one who wants a deep, intimate, relationship for life with their doctor,” Adams said.
Many students expected to hear a speech focused on Adam’s medical philosophies, but this was not his focus. In fact, only small portions of the talk were spent explaining the feel-good methods of curing.
“Going into it, I expected a light-hearted talk similar to the movie, but most of the talk stemmed from his views on large-scale issues,” sophomore Rachel Shapiro said.
Adams addressed issues such as capitalism, religion, the government and psychiatric medicine. He expressed an extreme dislike of President George W. Bush.
“Bush should be in jail along with his cronies. He is a mass murderer,” he said. Throughout the talk, he also called the president a Nazi and a fascist.
On capitalism, Adams said, “The capitalist system has made everything polluted so that it reinforces itself.”
He expressed a dislike toward labeling of psychiatric conditions.
“I eliminated labeling of psychiatric disorders since it isn’t useful and condemns the person for life,” Adams said. “I consider it malpractice to label those people.”
Adams also does not prescribe psychiatric drugs. Instead, he says that the best drug is love.
“I have never disliked a patient enough to give them a psychiatric medication,” Adams said.
A few audience members were openly opposed to the messages conveyed, quietly leaving their seats and proceeding to the door. The overwhelming majority of the crowd, however, was enthusiastic about his message. On several occasions, the audience interrupted him with overwhelming applause and the night was finished off with a standing ovation.
“I expected it to be light and entertaining but I’m glad that he challenged the audience,” Take Five Scholar Mike Gorelik said.
Juniors Lindsay Kryzak and Brad Goldberg both thought that Patch did a deed to the entire campus.
“With a campus so concentrated on competition and perfection, Adams really brought a dose of real-world perspective,” Goldberg said.
Kryzak conveyed similar thoughts.
“Patch is showing the many uptight people of our school that you can be successful and be a clown,” she said.
Adams has touched innumerable quantities of patients and made great progress in his unique medical approach. After 23 years of media stints, lectures and touring, he has raised enough money to foresee opening his brand new, 40-bed hospital during the 36th anniversary of his Institute next year. The hospital will be complete with a fully functional farm, two types of schools including a social change school and enough clowns to go around.
Adams probably won’t stop there, as he seems intent on stopping only when what he called “friendshipism” is the predominant belief across the globe.
“Friendshipism is that system of economics that assumes that you care about the people of the world like you care about your friends,” Adams said.Koeblitz is a member of the class of 2009.