Patch Adams – activist, doctor, clown – to talk at URI for annual Honors Colloquium

Posted on
Sept. 22 lecture: connection between laughter and good health

KINGSTON, R.I., Sept. 1, 2015 – A joyful clown is coming to the University of Rhode Island, but his topic is dead serious: how laughter is an antidote to our ills.

Patch Adams, a medical doctor and social activist with a fondness for a red bulbous nose and colorful bloomers, will give a talk Sept. 22 for the annual Honors Colloquium, whose topic this year is “The Power of Humor.”

Adams’ talk, free and open to the public, will start at 7 p.m. in Edwards Hall, 64 Upper College Road on the Kingston campus.

The United States spends almost 20 percent of its gross national product on health care – seven times more than other industrialized countries – yet is far from being the healthiest nation in the world.

Patch and his colleagues attribute that gap to an outdated health care model based on diagnosis and treatment – not prevention. Their message: People need to take more interest in their health, and one simple and free way to do that is through humor.

“The most revolutionary act one can commit in our world,” Adams has said, “is to be happy.”

Born in Washington, Adams grew up on military bases throughout the world and stateside with his soldier father and mother, a schoolteacher and loving parent. A self-proclaimed nerdy kid, he was hospitalized several times as a teen.

After he got out, he says he decided to “never have another bad day.” He became a doctor (and clown), and in 1971 founded the Gesundheit Institute to improve medical care. (Gesundheit means “good health” in German.) Thanks to the program’s success, he is now working on building a free hospital and other buildings on 310 acres in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

More than five years ago, Adams stopped seeing patients so he could raise money to build the hospital, which he describes as a “model health care community.” The site will also have a theater and arts and crafts shops, as well as horticulture and vocational therapy.

Adams, who lives in Arlington, Va., has become something of a household name following the release in 1998 of “Patch Adams,” a film based on his life starring the late Robin Williams. Adams also travels the world, giving clown seminars and making speeches to raise money for his hospital.

The major sponsor of this year’s Honors Colloquium is the URI Honors Program.

Other URI sponsors are Office of the President; Office of the Provost; The Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment; The Thomas Silvia and Shannon Chandley Honors Colloquium Endowment; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Pharmacy; The Harrington School of Communication and Media; John Hazen White, Sr. Center for Ethics and Public Service; Gender and Women Studies Program; Theatre Department; Talent Development Program; College of Engineering; College of the Environment and Life Sciences; College of Human Science and Services; College of Business Administration; College of Nursing; Division of Student Affairs; Department of Marketing and Communications; Department of Publications and Creative Service; Instructional Technology and Media Services; ASF College of Continuing Education, URI Providence; and URI Family Weekend 2015.

Those unable to attend the lecture can watch it live online at URI Live!

This year’s organizers of the colloquium are Rachel DiCiccio, professor of communication studies, and Brian Quilliam, associate dean and professor of pharmacy.

For more information on colloquium events contact Deborah Gardiner at 401-874-2381 or

For information about ways to support the Honors Colloquium, contact Lynne Derbyshire, URI professor of communication studies and Honors Program director, at 401-874-4732. If you have a disability and need an accommodation, please call 401-874-2303 at least three business days in advance.

For TTY assistance, please call the R.I. Relay Service at 800-745-5555.

For more details about the events, visit Honors Colloquium.

Pictured above: Patch Adams, who will speak at the University of Rhode Island Sept. 22 for the annual Honors Colloquium. The topic this year is “The Power of Humor.” Photo courtesy of Patch Adams