Clowning around with Patch Adams

Clowning around with Patch Adams


Patch Adams with Michael Patte Recently Michael Patte, professor of educational studies and secondary education, and his colleague Cindy Dell Clark, associate professor of anthropology from Rutgers University, sat down for an interview with Patch Adams, the prominent American physician, social activist, clown, and author to discuss play and its relationship to wellness — a topic all three know very well.

Throughout his 50-year career Patch has advocated for treating the patient and not the condition and during the two-hour interview he shared glimpses of his life’s work, which was the inspiration of a Hollywood movie in 1998, starring Robin Williams.

During those fifty years Patch estimates he clowned at 10,000 death beds and held 2,000 children in his arms the day they died of starvation. Patte and Clark both study and teach about children, culture, and play with a focus on health related issues. A recent publication by Clark includes a child-centered ethnography on how children and their families cope with asthma and diabetes, “In sickness and in play: Children coping with chronic illness.” Patte recently examined how the field of playwork might combat factors marginalizing children’s play in America in, “Playwork: A profession challenging societal factors devaluing children’s play.”

Patch's interview will be featured in an upcoming special edition of International Journal of Play, a new Routledge publication Patte co-edits with professor Pat Broadhead from the United Kingdom and June Factor from Australia. The special issue to be published in December 2013 will focus on the role of play in human wellbeing and include ways in which play is connected to biological or physical health, mental health, spiritual health, or healthy shared relationships of people of all ages. The goal of the special issue is to enlighten our understanding of how play adds to human resilience and functioning and the information gleaned from the interview with Patch Adams will help us do just that.