Last Wednesday, March 18, the Hunt Union Ballroom was packed with students, faculty and community members eager to hear from Hunter “Patch” Adams. The night was an emotional rollercoaster as Adams had the audience laughing hysterically one moment and wiping tears away the next.
Adams focuses on spreading a message of joyful living. He is a physician, social activist, author and last but not least, a clown. Adams organizes “clown-trips” to refugee camps, orphanages and areas struck by natural disasters to brighten the dark days of others around the world. Adams founded the Gesundheit Project, which aims to “reframe” and “reclaim” the idea of the word ‘hospital’ by offering free care to patients around the world, paying doctors and cleaning staff the same salary and living in the hospital as a community. Adams is working toward building a 44-bed free hospital in West Virginia.
Many know of Adams and his unique philosophies from the 1998 Universal Studios film Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams. Although he expressed mixed feelings about the film, saying that it traded depth for commercial appeal, Adams was grateful that it may have brightened the lives of those who watched it.
SUNY Oneonta junior Steven Doolittle was responsible for bringing Adams to Oneonta. Doolittle simply wrote Adams a letter and mailed it to him, since the renowned doctor does not own, or know how to operate, a computer. Adams says he responds to every letter he receives. Doolittle organized this event with the help of Dr. Poplock, the counseling center, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Sam Wild and Bill Harcleroad.
“There are no real words to describe Patch Adams,” Doolittle said. “Amazing is an understatement.”
He added, “Everybody at first gets this [simplified] idea from the movie about him and he is way more than that. Instead of just being a funny doctor, he is not just about medicine but about bettering people and bettering our culture and society.”
Doolittle had the opportunity to spend time with Adams. The two visited Fox Hospital together before the event at Hunt Union to cheer up patients. At one point during the hospital visit, Adams took out a whoopee cushion and had everyone laughing and smiling, a trick he uses in orphanages and refugee camps all over the world.
Adams argues that people can decide to be happy through mindfulness. The only difference between having a bad day and a good day is up to each individual, according to Adams. He preaches that we do not have to have another bad day if we do not allow ourselves to succumb to negativity.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the bad news we are greeted with each day and forget to focus on the good around and within us. All the horrible things going on globally make it exceedingly difficult to think positively about the world we inhabit.
The night was hilarious at times and serious at others. At the end of his lecture, Adams took the time to answer questions from the audience and responded to each with the utmost thoughtfulness. Adams performed a shamanic healing for a student who reached out to him, and invited members of the audience on stage to take part in the healing process.
Adams is all about love–he strongly believes that love needs to be taught, expressed and shared more often. To counteract the seriousness and heaviness of some of the topics Adams covered, the audience was lucky to be able to participate in “fart therapy”–where everyone in the room made noises and laughed with one another.
Patch Adams had a positive and lasting impact during his SUNY Oneonta visit, and left his imprint as the audeince walked out feeling full of life, joy and a sense of community.