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Patch Adams to Speak at U of U

February 12, 2004 — University of Utah philosophy student Markham McReynolds was so inspired by the movie “Patch Adams” and Adams’ book Gesundheit, that last semester he founded the campus Compassionate Care Group, which is now bringing the real-life Patch Adams to campus on Thursday, Feb. 19. Adams will present “Medicine for Fun, Not for Funds,” from 7:30 until 9:30 p.m., in the Skaggs Hall Auditorium at the College of Pharmacy, located at 30 S. 2000 E. Copies of Adams’ book will be available for purchase and a book signing will follow. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The movie “Patch Adams,” starring Robin Williams, follows the true story of Hunter Adams, a man who, in 1969, admits himself into a mental institution and there finds the hospital staff cold and detached. Adams discovers purpose in helping fellow patients and, thus inspired, vows to become a doctor. Once out of the asylum and in medical school, he finds a calloused philosophy to patients and their emotional needs. His unorthodox methods and defiance of the rules bring severe consequences, but, determined to address these concerns, he forms the Gesundheit Clinic, a facility to aid the poor and others who are not getting proper medical treatment.

As director of the Gesundheit Clinic, Adams advocated constructing a holistic health community based on the vision that patient care should include laughter, joy and creativity as a part of the healing process. Medical care was provided without cost and doctors carried no malpractice insurance. In Adams’ model patients and doctors interacted on the basis of mutual trust, and patients received plenty of time from their doctors. Adams and his colleagues at the Gesundheit Clinic, their “pilot project,” practiced medicine together this way and saw 15,000 patients over the course of 12 years. Adams has since closed the clinic and hopes to raise money for a Gesundheit hospital in West Virginia that would follow the same philosophy of the clinic. Today, now in his early 60s, Adams speaks to raise money for the free hospital that he hopes to build in West Virginia. He travels to foreign countries to perform as a clown for sick children and teaches courses on “The Joy of Living.”

Markham, who intends to go into medicine with the goal of someday opening his own clinic, approached Adams on coming to speak on campus and Adams agreed to a $5,000 (plus expenses) speakers fee. When Markham and a few fellow Compassionate Care Group members could only come up with $3,700 between November and Feb. 1, Adams still agreed to come for the price.

Markham, Compassionate Care Group president, explains the group’s mission is to promote humor, joy and compassion in health care and the community. The group sponsors monthly speakers who address a variety of topics related to health care-everything from insurance to spirituality. A schedule of lectures can be found on the ASUU calendar at

The Patch Adams lecture is co-sponsored by the Division of Medical Ethics and Division of Infectious Diseases in the School of Medicine, Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and ASUU.