Hi! Patch Here.

Thank you for taking the time to visit this website and for your curiosity concerning my work. You may have heard of me through the film about my life in medical school, Patch Adams, and I can confirm that I am actually a real person. I am a Doctor, but above all else I consider myself an activist for peace, justice and care for all people. Please read my short autobiography below to learn a little more and if it’s interesting, consider purchasing my book, Gesundheit!. Have fun!

I am a Doctor, but above all else I consider myself an activist for peace, justice and care for all people.

Growing Up


My older brother and I were World War II babies. Dads career was in the army and he fought all of World War II and Korea. We grew up on army bases, outside the US during peacetime and stateside during wartime. Our last seven years with him were in Germany where he died in 1961. He was so damaged by his war experiences that he couldn’t connect with me. I had no father. My mother was remarkable. She loved us. She was a schoolteacher and fed me all of my interests, giving me self-esteem and making me a creative, loving man who cared for people.

After my father´s death we moved back to Virginia and I was placed in an all white school where I immediately was confronted with the ugliness of segregation. I got in trouble with my classmates and was beaten up for standing up to the racism that surrounded me. I was a strange, nerdy kid. In my late teens I was hospitalized three times because I didn’t want to live in a world of so much violence and injustice. Everything changed in the last hospitalization when I decided that instead of taking my life, I would make a (love) revolution. At 18, I found my desire to serve humanity through medicine and made the commitment to myself to never have another bad day. I decided to be happy. I left the hospital on fire and pursued a couple interests while working for my medical degree.

Gesundheit! Begins

Patch & Kids 1

First, I wanted to go out and engage the world as this happy soul. I started clowning in public and have done it daily since. Second, I set out to quench my thirst for knowledge by studying everything I could get my hands on. In order to become an instrument for peace, justice and care I read thousands of books. I needed to understand so I could create solutions. I became interested in whole systems thinking, looking for ways to integrate it with the hospital-community concepts that emerged in medical school. In my imagination I envisioned a communal eco-village hospital that would address every problem of the way healthcare was delivered in one model. I wrote it up in a paper in March, 1971 and this was the basis of what became the Gesundheit Institute.

I met my wife, Linda, in my last year of medical school (Medical College of Virginia, class of 1971). She was instrumental in the early years of the hospital´s functioning and I cannot imagine it without her. Together we had two sons, Atomic and Lars.

With an amazing group of friends we created the Gesundheit Institute, a pilot hospital model, which we operated for twelve years out of our communal home. We were always open for any kind of problem. Our policy was: 1) no charge 2) no health insurance reimbursement 3) no malpractice insurance 4) 3 to 4 hour initial interview with the patient 5) home as hospital 6) integration of all the healing arts 7) integration of medicine with performance arts, arts and crafts, nature, agriculture, education, recreation and social service 8) the health of the staff is as important as the health of the patient.

We did this for 12 years and saw thousands of patients. The experience was enchanting. Unfortunately we were so radical that we couldn’t find funding. The staff itself paid to practice. In 1984, we realized that we couldn’t continue operating this way. We needed a facility. In this context we decided to go public and I quickly became busy as a speaker.

Global Outreach

Patch & Baby 1(pdot)

In the last 28 years, I´ve created 50 presentations and performed them in 70 countries. I´ve spoken at 90 medical schools in the US and many more around the world. Over the course of the last two decades I´ve been on the road for 200-300 days of the year.

In 1985, I took a group of people on a clown trip to what was then the Soviet Union. Equipped with colorful clothing and compassion we visited hospitals, orphanages, homes for the elderly as well as just clowning on the street. Since then, these trips have been an integral part of Gesundheit´s global outreach. Apart from returning to Russia every year there have been clown trips to all corners of the world, including visits to war zones, refugee camps and natural disaster sites. We´ve also built clinics and a school at some of the places we´ve visited. I go on six or seven of these trips yearly. They are the sweetest healing work I get to do while I wait for the hospital.

I go on six or seven of these trips yearly. They are the sweetest healing work I get to do while I wait for the hospital.

After separating from my wife in 1997, I submerged myself in working to get our hospital built. A year later, a movie about my life, “Patch Adams”, was released. I thought it would build our hospital but that hasn´t been the case. It did, however, bring a great deal more visibility to our project and opened many wonderful doors to new directions for Gesundheit to pursue. 20 years ago I became a student of the School for Designing a Society and over time I´ve discovered a passion for teaching.

Breaking Ground

sep_2011_buildingProject_webIn the summer of 2011 we started construction of our first big building, a Teaching Center in West Virginia. This will allow us to see patients once again as well as providing a space to teach health care system design. In the excitement for this moment, I chose to move to Urbana, Illinois to live with my beloved Susan, who has been and continues to be a precise mentor to me. In recent years I’ve had the opportunity to work together with my sons and brother, Wildman, and life doesn’t get any better than that. All this in hopeful preparation for the dream of a crazy free hospital.

My life has been a dance with humanity. Friends are my passion.


Patch Adams MD & Gesundheit Institute, P.O. Box 307, Urbana, IL 61803

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