Hunter (Patch) Adams has been putting into practice the idea that “healing should be a loving human interchange, not a business transaction” for more than 35 years. He is the founder and director of the Gesundheit! Institute, a holistic medical community that has provided free medical care to thousands of patients since it began in 1971.
The Gesundheit! Institute is an “experiment in holism with a medical focus on the belief that one cannot separate the health of the individual from the health of the family, the community, and the world. Gesundheit! is a sociopolitical act that grows out of a deep concern for the quality of people’s lives in a world dominated by the values inherent in greed and power.” At its height the institute was staffed by 20 medical workers, including two physicians in addition to Adams. Between 1971 and 1983, 15,000 patients received free medical care, and Adams has a tall stack of letters from them attesting that his clinic’s humor and compassion helped when others could not. The Gesundheit! Institute is the only model addressing all the problems of the U.S. health care delivery system.
Almost 23 years ago, Adams stopped seeing patients so he could concentrate on coordinating plans and raising the $40 million needed for the institute’s permanent home, a hospital community on 310 acres in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Adams is also a professional clown and a performer who has written, produced, and/or acted in numerous plays. He is a moviemaker and a citizen diplomat, who for 21 years has taken clowns and aid all over the world–three times into war and countless times into refugee camps. Adams has clowned in 55 countries.