Hunter Patch Adams was criticized in his official medical school record for "excessive happiness" and was once told by a faculty advisor, "If you want to be a clown, join the circus."
Patch did, in fact, want to be a clown. But he also wanted to be a physician. Combining vastly different sides of his personality, he became both. Patchs remarkable story, which includes having been a patient and a doctor at a mental institute, celebrates the triumph of spirited individualism and the unending pursuit of idealism.
Says Robin Williams, "Patch is a strange anomaly, just incredible. He wears massively bright floral shirts and a tie that occasionally makes noise. Hes an outrageous person but a passionate and dedicated doctor. He never wanted to be part of the system, he had to create a new system."
Director Tom Shadyac explains, "Patch is a healer who tries to find out what makes you tick. What do you like? What excites you? Whats your passion? Fulfilling his patients fantasies increases their endorphin levels and their desire to recover."
Inspired to become a doctor while institutionalized for depression as a teenager, Patch Adams attended the Medical College of Virginia in the late 60s and early 70s. After graduation, he formed the Gesundheit Institute, dedicated to a more connected, personalized approach to medicine. Having initially resisted public attention, he began receiving a flurry of media coverage about his unorthodox clinic in the mid-80s and eventually wrote a book about his work in 1993.
In it, Adams explains his humor-driven prescriptions and why hes willing to dress like a gorilla, fill a room full of balloons or tub full of noodles to elicit a smile, a spiritual connection or simple moment of pleasure from a patient.