The 1998 movie Patch Adams is loosely based on the early struggles of Hunter Adams as he undertook training to become a physician in Virginia. Adams’ philosophical perspective regarding developing close relationships with his patients – particularly through the use of humor – was directly opposed to the distance that the clinical faculty demanded in the doctor-patient relationship. In one poignant scene from the film, Adams, portrayed by the late Robin Williams, is required to stand in front of the faculty for a hearing related to his fitness to continue studies and to provide care to the indigent people of rural Virginia. Adams passionately challenges the faculty to think about the importance of patient-first relationships in the healing process, and states, “That’s why, when you treat a disease, you win or you lose; but when you treat a person, I guarantee, you win no matter what the outcome.”
In the movie, and in real life, as well, Adams was able to gain re-entry into medical school and continue his work providing free medical service to the underserved in rural Appalachia. He later expanded his efforts into the global community, impacting the lives of the underserved from Africa to South America. His Gesundheit! Institute continues to thrive and grow under his watchful eye. Patch still employs humor as a medium to connect with others for their overall well-being.
As we jump headlong into a new year, we will also jump headlong into curriculum, instructional methodologies, behavioral expectations, intervention systems, data, and a host of other items that trend toward the clinical aspects of education. These things are important, and yes, we want you to use them to their fullest extent to inform and improve your practices and increase student achievement results. But please don’t let these clinical elements ever overshadow that fact that we are teaching people. I encourage you to smile, laugh, play, and have fun with your students. I encourage you to connect with them, their families, and your colleagues in meaningful ways, knowing that the relationships you develop will yield tremendous and lasting results. I guarantee, you win no matter what the outcome.