The Gesundheit Institute began as a group of twenty friends, including three doctors, who moved into a six-bedroom home and called it a free hospital. The hospital was open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for all manner of medical problems from birth to death. 500-1000 patients were seen each month, with 5-50 overnight guests a night. Though staff had to work outside jobs in order to support themselves and their families, for the first 9 years none of the staff left. Over its 12-year history, 15,000 patients were seen. These years provided a "proof of concept," affirming the direction of building a full-scale, rural hospital to serve as a place of service and a model of care.
As a future hospital site, Gesundheit purchased 321 acres in Pocahontas County, West Virginia with the help of donations. Infrastructure construction included building a 3-story woodshop, a domed “Dacha” for housing up to 8 staff members, a Chrysalis-shaped classroom, a lake, gardens, and farmhouse expansion.
In 1998, Universal Studios released the movie “Patch Adams” starring Robin Williams, based on Patch Adams’s book Gesundheit. At the end of the film, Universal Studios inserted the inaccurate statement that Gesundheit had already built its free hospital.
While this false claim hindered Gesundheit's ability to fundraise for the free hospital, the movie itself raised visibility and helped launch a decade of teaching and Global Outreach.
Dr. Patch Adams and members of the Gesundheit Institute have lectured at medical and nursing schools in over 65 countries and on five continents, reaching approximately 150,000 attendees per year. Over 1300 people per year participate in Gesundheit's medical student electives, volunteer programs, alternative spring breaks, health care system design intensives, humanitarian clown trips, and health justice gatherings.
In July of 2007, The Gesundheit Board launched a campaign to build the Patch Adams Teaching Center and Clinic, which will teach health care design and provide a positive global model of health care delivery on our land in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
We plan to build a forty-bed rural community hospital –what we call Phase 6. there will be sixty beds for staff and beds for their families in a creative, comfortable communal hospital. there will be 30,000 square feet devoted to the arts in a fully arts-centered hospital. there will be a school for social change and in-depth agricultural programs. It will be funny looking, full of surprises and magic. In a context of service driven care, we aim to operate this hospital on 10% of the national average. Read more