Activist doctor, clown inspires capacity crowd with ‘love strategy’

Patch has been in medicine for 33 years. In that time, he has never prescribed medications or carried malpractice insurance. Patch also travels the world taking his unique approach to medicine to refugee camps and third-world hospitals.

Brandi Boulware

Patch has been in medicine for 33 years. In that time, he has never prescribed medications or carried malpractice insurance. Patch also travels the world taking his unique approach to medicine to refugee camps and third-world hospitals.

Inspiring many people and annoying some others with government criticism, Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams spoke April 19 in Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Julie Blackford, director of student activities, said this was the Campus Activities Board’s biggest lecture since she has been at Southern. More than 1,100 people attended the lecture.

Patch, who attended medical school from 1967-1972, has been lecturing for about 20 years. During that time he has been working on the Gesundheit Institute, a hospital that, once completed, will offer its services free to the public.

The Gesundheit Institute is nearing completion at its site in southern West Virginia, the poorest state for health care. Patch said he thinks he will receive enough money shortly to complete the complex. He said he knows someone who is near death and has promised to leave his money to the Institute.

Patch said he has been in medicine for 33 years and has never carried malpractice insurance nor ever prescribed any drugs.

“I don’t hate anyone that much,” he said.

Patch said if a patient comes to see him the first thing he does is interview the patient for four hours.

“I do it for me,” Patch said. “I want to know the person; I want to add that person to my life.”

He said no one can know anyone in the seven-and-a-half minute interview most doctors do with their patients.

Patch uses treatments that are not considered normal in the medical industry. For example, if a patient comes to him suffering from depression, Patch said he will handcuff the patent to him and walk around with him or her. Patch said the area where his hospital is has “land mines,” areas where happy objects are placed.

Patch said he will take depressed people to the land mines, and there may be puppies there. When the patient starts playing with the puppies, Patch asks the patient if that is a depressing moment. He also said he may take the patient to a morgue, find a dead body, slap it and ask the patient if he or she would rather be where the corpse is.

Patch said his lecture, titled “What is Your Love Strategy?” was designed as a workshop after 9-11. He said he called CNN several times trying to have the network put him on with a love strategy as a counter to war.

Patch began the lecture with two activities from his workshop. The first activity had everybody hug someone they did not come with for as long as possible or until he told them to stop. The second activity had everybody place their hands on the head of a different person and repeatedly say “I love you” to them.

The lecture focused on how most people in the world understand love is the most important thing in the world, but how there is not a single class on the “verbing of love” and few if any people spend time thinking about the “verbing of love.”

Patch also criticized current government policy, especially toward war.

He showed a 15-minute portion of his documentary, Clowin’ Kabul, about halfway through his lecture. The film is about a troop of clowns from around the world who Patch led to Afghanistan two months after the U.S. invasion. The clowns visited hospitals and refugee camps to help ease the pain of the people there.

Before the film excerpt, Patch warned audience members the film is graphic. He said he intended it to be difficult for adults to watch, but apologized to those who brought their children.

After the showing and the government criticism, approximately half the audience was left in the stands.

One of the last topics Patch talked about before a question-and-answer session was the “four ‘As.'” Attention, Affection, Anticipation and Appreciation, he said are essential to creating a lasting relationship, whether it be with a friendship or a romantic relationship.

After the question-and-answer session, Patch had copies of his books, Patch Adams, M.D. and House Calls for sale and he signed them, spending a few minutes talking to each person who wanted an autograph and posing for photos with several of them.

At the lecture, Jeremy Sturgell, Southern’s 2003 Outstanding Graduate who now attends medical school at the University of Columbia, was given the opportunity to introduce Patch.

Sturgell said he was asked to do the introduction because he has a relationship with the University. He once served as the lecture chair and tried several times to bring Patch here. Sturgell said when he was asked he “definitely” wanted to do it.

Sturgell had the opportunity to meet Patch before the lecture.

“He was intense,” Sturgell said. “[He was] everything I expected, just much more intense.”

“It (the lecture) was different than I thought it would be,” Blackford said.

She said people were probably expecting the Robin Williams movie version and Patch but instead they saw the real Patch.

Several people came to the lecture because of the movie starring Robin Williams.

Skyler Beebe, resident of Joplin, said she came because she is a fan of the movie and of Patch.

“He was a good motivational speaker,” Beebe said.

Carrie Cravens, junior nursing major, also came because of the movie.

“I just wanted to see what he was like,” Cravens said. “I thought he was a very inspiring person, and I think more people should be like him.”

Lindsay Rickman, junior health promotion and wellness major, said she came not only because of the movie but because she wanted to “see the real Patch Adams.”

“He gave new meaning to the word ‘love,'” Rickman said.

Sturgell thought the lecture went over well.

“It was just good that that many people came out,” he said.