Patch Adams Offers Tips on Compassionate Care

VCU Hosts Annual Pediatric Spring Conference

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A workshop led by Hunter “Patch” Adams, M.D., was among the highlights when the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics recently held its annual pediatric spring conference for first- and second- year medical students interested in the field of pediatrics.

Students from Virginia, Washington D.C., North Carolina and Maryland gathered in the Kontos Medical Sciences Building and began their day with a breakfast and a welcome address by Michael Sean Ryan, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at VCU.

The morning continued with special guest lectures by Sen. Ralph Northam, M.D., member of the Virginia Senate from the 6th district, who talked about “Pediatrics and Policymaking,” and John Glick, M.D., member of the board of directors for the Gesundheit! Institute, who presented “Clowning Around with Dr. John Glick.”

Following Glick, students had the opportunity to ask questions during the Pediatric Residency Panel Q&A session prior to networking and lunch.

In the afternoon, the conference featured a workshop by Adams titled “What is Your Love Strategy?”

Adams, a VCU School of Medicine graduate, is a well-known medical doctor, clown, social activist and founder of the Gesundheit! Institute. He believes that laughter, joy, humor and play are an integral part of the healing process and urges medical doctors and students to develop compassionate connections with their patients.

“Think about your individual personal love for every human being,” said Adams. “Compassion is medicine.”

The workshop began with instructions for everyone to lie down on the floor, close their eyes and relax. Adams instructed students to stay focused and keep their minds from wandering. They then stood up, partnered with someone they did not know and hugged them for approximately 45 seconds to one minute. This exercise was repeated three times. According to Adams, the exercise was a valuable lesson in compassion.

“This is a hugging exercise and a lab. You’re going to study each other’s hugs,” said Adams. “In hugging there is everything you’re giving and everything you’re receiving. The consequence of a hug could save a life. I’ve seen it happen.”

He also said that hugging or “hugging therapy” is said to have many benefits such as lowering heart rate, blood pressure and stress and reducing heart disease.

For the third and final exercise, students were asked again to partner and take turns repeating the phrase, “I love you,” to each other until they were told to stop. This again taught the students a lesson in compassion and kindness.

Student participants also had the opportunity to ask questions and seek advice from Adams after his lecture.

Scott Toney, a second-year medical student at VCU, attended the conference out of his interest for pediatrics and to see Patch Adams.

“I now have a better understanding of pediatric medical practice strategies on how to connect with patients,” Toney said. 

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