Image: Robin WIlliams as Patch Adams; Patch Adams at Club Noel Hospital August 16, 2003. Robin WIlliams as Patch Adams; Patch Adams at Club Noel Hospital August 16, 2003. Universal/Getty Images; Carlo Durna Araujo—Corbis

Last week, totally unexpectedly, I met Patch Adams. Now, for those that don’t recognize the name, Patch Adams was the subject of the movie, by the same name from 1998, starring Robin Williams. Patch was then, and is now, still determined to change the face of medicine from sick medicine and hospitals to healing using some pretty unusual methods. As they say, laughter is the best medicine – and Patch really seems to believe that.

When I was standing there listening to him speak, and later on when I got a chance to talk to him, he was emphatic that we need to do things differently. Now, I’m not sure that he really understands or maybe has even heard of Functional Medicine, but I don’t think we’re doing anything all that much different – he and I. We’re trying to change the face of medicine.

There are a number of contemporary practitioners that talk about the origins of disease. Dis-ease? From Gabor Mate and his theories on the origin of addiction (hint: it’s social isolation) to Selye’s theories that everything is based on stress; I hear and see truth in a lot of it. And there are studies that support these thoughts. But once we know what causes the problem, what are we going to do to fix it?

Sometimes it’s the result of a test that tells us what’s wrong. From that point we have options on how we’re going to correct it. Where did it come from?

Sometimes it’s a conversation that tells us what’s been happening. There’s a saying in medicine and it goes something like “80% of the diagnosis is in the history”. What happened to trigger this change or condition?

The way to fix different issues isn’t always the same. In fact, it’s almost never the same between people. I’ve always liked to think that figuring out what happened at “Ground Zero”, when things started going wrong, would tell us what we needed to do to fix it. Regardless of what that is, it’s different for everyone – personalized. Maybe it’s a laugh. Maybe it’s therapy. Maybe it’s correcting an imbalance. Maybe it’s reducing inflammation and stress. Maybe it’s a combination of MANY things (which is usually the case). But rarely, is it a pill. Rarely, is it treating a symptom. Rarely, is it considering ourselves “sick”.

Besides a hilarious sidebar conversation with Patch about likely both being on some CIA list, my haphazard meeting with him reminded me of his story and what he’s been trying to accomplish for the last 40+ years: making healthcare about being healthy.

Maybe it’s time we pull this off. What do you guys think?

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