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Physician Hunter Doherty ‘‘Patch’’ Adams, the controversial founder of the Gesundheit! Institute in Pocahontas County was born May 26, 1945 in Washington, D.C.. Since 1971, Adams has promoted an alternative vision of health care: traditional medicine and holistic healing integrated with art, recreation, nature, and fun. In his public appearances, he wears clown clothes and employs slapstick to advertise his message.

In 1963, Adams spent two weeks in a psychiatric facility being treated for depression. After the experience, Adams resolved to live a happier life and spread joy to others. In 1967, he graduated from George Washington University, and he received his M.D. from the Medical College of Virginia in 1971. In 1979, he moved to Washington and began raising money to build a hospital that would offer free care, which he named the Gesundheit! Institute. In 1980, he bought the property for the hospital, a 310-acre farm near Droop Mountain in Pocahontas County.

In 1998, the release of the movie Patch Adams brought national fame to Adams. The movie, based on his autobiography Gesundheit!, starred Robin Williams.

Adams’ critics question the institute’s finances. After more than 30 years, the hospital is still a dream. Adams lives in Urbana, Illinois, and lectures about humor, health care, wellness, and creativity.

Last Revised on November 15, 2016

Related Articles


Burnside, Mary W. Patched Together. Charleston Gazette, December 24, 1998.

Kempley, Rita. The Doctor is Out. Way Out. Washington Post, December 15, 1998.

Cite This Article

e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Patch Adams." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 15 November 2016. Web. 21 July 2024.


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