Student Brings Patch Adams to Campus

March 03, 2014

Students learn about clowning with the Patch Adams organization

Clowning around to change the world? It's no joke -- for Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams it's a mission to bring humor and healthcare to those in need.

Widely known for his belief that health care should be a vehicle for social change, Dr. Patch Adams gained recognition after Robin Williams portrayed him in the 1998 hit film, Patch Adams. It's a vision that resonates with Simmons Nursing student Brianna Bouchard '14, who joined Adams on a clowning volunteer healthcare trip to Guatemala City during her sophomore year. She was so moved by the experience that she worked with the Simmons Student Nursing Association to bring Dr. Patch Adams to campus.

From 6-8 pm on Thursday, March 6th, the entire College community is invited to attend Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams' speech, followed by a meet & greet, free of charge. Donations benefiting Adams' not-for-profit health care organization, the Gesundheit! Institute, are welcome throughout the event.

We spoke with Brianna to find out more about her passion for healthcare, and why she's so inspired by the work of Patch Adams.

Why did you choose Simmons?

I was someone who really had no idea what I wanted to do. I started my college application process as an undecided/business major. In April, one month before I had to make my decision about college, someone suggested that I look into nursing. The more I thought about it, the more it started to feel like something I needed to do. I wouldn't have it any other way. Simmons has helped me become a strong leader and find confidence in my own voice.
What do you like most about the Nursing program at Simmons?
The wonderful opportunities we have to learn and the ability we have to grow as people and leaders.

When did you first become interested in Patch Adams and his work?

The summer between my first year and sophomore year of college. My friend from home and I were having our weekly movie night and it was my night to pick the movie. I'd never head of "Patch Adams," and decided we should watch it. I was going through a difficult time at that point in my life and the ways in which love, medicine, and living were all valued in the movie truly inspired me. At the end of the movie, when the text ran over the last image of Robin Williams' face and I read that there really was a hospital that Patch was in the process of building, that this amazing man was real and alive, I had to know more. After doing some research about him and reading his books, I decided to write him a letter. I told him how his work amazed me, and I thanked him for everything he has done to make a difference. Within 3 weeks, he wrote back with a beautiful picture of 3 little girls from Russia, a picture from his latest clown trip. With it, he sent a copy of his book, "House Calls," which he had signed on the inside cover. I was astonished.

What made you decide to participate in the clowning trip to Guatemala City?

I was browsing Gesundheit! Institute's website during winter break of my sophomore year and I noticed a posting for a clown trip during my Spring Break. In the letter that Patch had written me, he told me that I should come on a clowning trip with him. At the time I wasn't sure what that entailed, but after I read the posting I understood it a little more. It felt like something I needed to do and having just received a scholarship from my high school that was disbursed after completion of my first year of college, I decided I was going to use that money to go to Guatemala City. It was the best, scariest decision I had ever made in my life

What was one of the most rewarding parts of the trip?

Being surrounded by an incredible amount of unconditionally loving people. Every time you waved at someone you didn't know on the street, they smiled and waved back. I had never met the people on the trip with me before, but they all saw so many wonderful things in me. They were completely amazing people with such wonderful dreams and minds. They inspired me to push myself outside my comfort zone and not be afraid of getting close and loving people. It changed the way I saw life.

What principals and techniques of Patch Adams will you apply to your work as a nurse?

When Patch was helping us understand what being a clown was all about in the first few days we were in Guatemala, he said there is no wrong way to be a clown. Every person will have a different "clowning style" - if you are loving, you cannot go wrong. With that in mind, I found a place deep inside myself that allowed me to be silly, sensitive, loving, and completely joyous. It helped me find ways to connect with people, to get creative and bring out the best parts of myself. All of those things have become a part of me, as they will be a part of the nurse I will be someday. Patch taught me to believe in myself, and trust that being who I am is more than enough.

What inspired you to invite Patch Adams to speak on campus?

After meeting Patch and so many wonderful clowns in Guatemala, my life changed forever. Each one of them planted a seed and gave me hope for my own future. It was the beginning of my quest to truly make a difference and a positive impact. It gave me the ideas and drive to want to be an activist, a change agent, a clown, an artist, a great friend to everyone I meet. Knowing how much Patch influenced my life, I wanted to be able to share that with the Simmons community in hopes that maybe he would touch a few more lives the way he touched mine.

Why is it important for students to attend the Patch Adams event?

Because it'll be fun! It's an exciting experience that I think students will remember for a long time. This is an opportunity you may never have thought of, and it will expand your mind and open your heart to dreams and aspirations you may not have considered to be a part of your future. But mostly, it's a chance to be silly and figure out what kind of clown you are!

What are your future career goals?

Right now, my goal is to graduate from Simmons and pass the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses). Long term though, I would like to be the best nurse I can be, learn and understand health care extremely well, make a positive difference, and help people to understand the importance of the whole person. I greatly believe in the humanistic elements of nursing care and I think it's important to remember the beginning of nursing, what it means to really care about someone. I see myself eventually more focused in the community setting and participating more in government to be an advocate for health care and social change. I am also looking into going on another clowning trip with Patch this summer, and would love to be able to go to Gesundheit! Institute someday as well.

Any advice for students who want to get involved at Simmons?

Do what you're passionate about. If you have an idea or a vision, find people who will support you, help you grow, and guide you through the process of making it real. There are so many wonderful people you can meet through getting involved at Simmons. It can be a little intimidating , maybe even scary at first, but that is how we grow, by getting a little outside of our comfort zones.