"Healtho"and Sicko-More on Dr. Patch Adams
If you have seen SICKO give yourself a treat and pull out the movie PATCH ADAMS starring Robin Williams-circa 1998- which didn't have the timely political power that Moore's movie is having but will make you feel good generally and feel even better that people like the real life Dr. Patch Adams, whom I have known for 30 almost years, has been heroically trying to improve and humanize US Medicine since he entered medical school in the 1967.
Moore is the classic muckraker whose latest film on the tragedy of US Health Care is his best. One pundit said while it has its comical moments it is basically not funny given the human suffering and blatant corruption that Moore effectively exposes. Adams, while not shy about his disdain with the US health care system, basically through lifelong actions and projects has demonstrated in the real world what a genuine humanized health care system could be like. Some have called Adams a mere clown which of course he actually is and quite proud to be. Others have said he is an irrelevant side-show?. But now that "sideshow" seems to be prescient by at least 30 years. Last November I promised
in this blog that I would write more about my friend Patch Adams,his work,his Gesundheit Institute and a recent project Patch and his colleague and partner Dr. Susan Parenti have launched about designing healthy and humane health care systems.
If you go to Patch Adam's website known The Gesundheit Institute you will note that Patch's activities have revolved, in the past, around two basic themes.
One is demonstrating the healing power of humor through clowning which Patch has brought to hospitals literally throughout the world by himself and with clowning teams which he has organized. This was long before the so called "mirth response" or laughter had been empirically demonstrated to have physiological benefit.Patch,however, never claimed that clowning could ever take the place or match the power on bio-medicines powerful tools of drugs,surgery or radiation. But he recognized intuitively the value of introducing humor through clown healing work in health care system that was mired only in pathology and power grabbing paternalism as well as intellectual stagnation under the guise of hypocritical "professionalism". Patch's clowning project has resulted in clowns being part of hospital work in every continent on the planet.He now takes clowns to hospitals and other settings about 300 days a year in over 40 countries- most recently in war torn Afghanistan. And Patch has come to realize the movement he began does not need him alone- the ultimate measure of success.
The other major project Patch has been trying to consummate is the building of a model hospital.The
Hospital,projected to be located in the hills of West Virgina-not far from our nation's capital-,would embody all the elements of Patch's views of what a true values based and humanistic healing institute would look and feel like to staff, patients and visitors.
The hospital was to have been a model for a humanistic place of healing which would democratize patient care and incorporate humor and the arts as a healing force.Good health said Patch in a recent essay on the hospital project was about close friendships,meaningful work,a lived spirituality of any kind,an opportunity for loving service and an engaging relationship to nature,the arts, wonder,curiosity,passion and hope. Patch's basic definition of health is having a day to day vitality for life.Of course most of these principles go unmet among most people (especially adults) in today's maddening US consumerist, workaholic, time crunched, US society and certainly in the business of high tech-now dangerous what we hypocritically call hospitals.
Patch states, however, that after 33 years of trying to build his beloved hospital "ground has yet to broken". But he tells his readers and supporters ,of which I count myself as one minor player, that his "journey has been heavenly all along the way.Simply being in a idealistic quest is its own reward. I've never felt I've sacrificed anything, says Adams, or thought is was a hard journey. Hard would have been having to work in corporate medicine and lie to patients and myself everyday."Now that is MY kind of doctor!
Recently Patch through his collaboration with Dr. Susan Parenti has launched yet another project grounded in the philosophy put forth in Dr. Parenti's paper to "Redesign the US Health Care System by "Thinking Universally and Designing Locally" thus introducing what Parenti powerfully refers to as "perturbation" which, sounding gentle, like the proverbial ripple on the pond spreads in all directions and reaches many distant shores.She calls her position a "third position" in the US health care reform debate. "Do it local, do it now, do it small, link with all"-says Parenti.
This coming October Patch is leading a 4 day Health Care Design intensive workshop for changing the health care system in Urbana,Illinois (Oct 11-14) For details click here Among the speakers is Susan Parenti. I encourage you to attend.
Also do me a favor -buy some red round clown noses (See final scenes in movie Patch Adams) and wear one-even once. Do as I once did and give the noses to your best friends and take a group photo which I guarantee will become one of your favorites among your collection.
I call upon Michael Moore to wear a red nose-even once- as a show of support and to honor Dr. Patch Adams.
As the health care reform debate generates momentum we all could do worse than wearing red noses and opening up our hearts and our wallets by writing a $ check to The Gesundheit Institute led by the incomparable Dr. Patch Adams - one of the most remarkable-definitely heroic- people I have had the privilege of knowing.
Dr. Rick Lippin