Rapp nurse aide students inspired by Dr. Patch Adams

Famous doctor shares heartfelt story of treating others with dignity and love

‘I’m really a clown that is a doctor, not a doctor that is a clown’

By Holly Jenkins

Special to the Rappahannock News

Six Rappahannock County High School Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) students had a vision — to meet Dr. Patch Adams, who was famously portrayed by Robin Williams in the 1998 film “Patch Adams.”

Inspired by his eccentric, patient-directed philosophies of love and compassion, the students set out on a mission to make this dream a reality. Through determination, hard work, and encouragement from their instructor, Brittnay Woolman, the students organized a multi-school event featuring Dr. Patch Adams himself as the special guest.

Rappahannock County High School Certified Nurse Aides who had a rare opportunity to meet Dr. Patch Adams include (left to right) Ashyln Connelly, Jacklyn Humphries, Patch Adams, Karley Wharton, Shadow Jenkins, Abby Mills, and Brittnay Woolman (not pictured, Courtney Higgins). By Holly Jenkin

According to CNA student, Jacklyn Humphries, “We learned about Dr. Patch Adams while covering patient directed care. To show the importance of being respectful and attentive, our teacher showed us the 1998 film ‘Patch Adams.’ His perseverance to encourage a more personalized environment inspired us.”

Fellow student Abby Mills added, “After watching the movie, we decided we needed to be a part of the movement. It started with the idea of volunteering or visiting the Gesundheit Institute, a free hospital being built in West Virginia. This was the first obstacle, the institute was not up and running yet. So, more determined, we decided to step it up and bring him (Patch) here.”

Once the students had their plan in place, they had to secure funds to make the event possible. They reached out to Valley Health, Lord Fairfax Community College, and Rappahannock County Public Schools who generously agreed to partially co-sponsor the event. During the next several months, the students worked hard in fundraising to cover the additional expenses necessary for the guest lecture.

After securing the additional funding and setting the date, the students went to work to advertise and invite students from nearby counties to attend. They received confirmation that students from Page County, Winchester City, Fauquier County, Clarke County, Frederick County, and Lord Fairfax Community College would be in attendance.

Last Thursday, April 26th, 44 RCHS students, each with an interest in the healthcare profession, traveled to the Lord Fairfax Community College campus in Warrenton for the big event. Upon arriving at LFCC, the CNA students had an opportunity to privately meet Dr. Adams, who insisted on being called Patch. They took playful photos, including his trademark finger-in-your-nose pose, and graciously thanked him for helping them achieve their goal.

Prior to introducing Patch Adams, the students gathered at the podium, in front of the large crowd of peers, and explained their inspiration and efforts that lead to the event. Then, CNA student Ashlyn Connelly enthusiastically announced with great anticipation, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Here’s Patch!”

For the following 90 minutes, Patch Adams shared a touching, heartfelt story of his life and his philosophy of treating others with dignity and love. He spoke poetically and freely to the audience that clung to every word of his emotional message about loving others: “A life lived in compassion, with care, eye contact, playfulness is heaven. It’s heaven all day long.”

Within his presentation, Patch shared six key characteristics that are of equal importance in his philosophy: be happy, be funny, be loving, be cooperative, be creative, and be thoughtful. Patch continued by challenging the students to spread love and compassion for one another.

“Go to your school and find who feels most alone. And go and befriend them,” he said.

The students laughed, cried, and applauded throughout Patch’s stories and theatrical performance. Patch, who did not hold back, freely shared his own experiences that led to his vision of love-centered care.

“I realized that I didn’t get one lecture on health or care in medical school. I got lots of lectures on disease. Not one lecture on diet and exercise, love, spirit, wonder, curiosity, passion, hope, creativity, generosity, gratitude- they were never mentioned,” he said. “All of those things are unbelievable medicines for you. They can eliminate your ever suffering if you chose to let them inside of you.”

Patch continued, “After becoming a doctor, I saw that humor had a place equal to loves place in getting close to people and having them relax. I’m really a clown that is a doctor, not a doctor that is a clown.”

At the conclusion of the presentation, Patch mingled with the students, posing for pictures and answering questions. It was evident from the laughter and hugs that the students were clearly moved by Patch’s message.

RCHS student Riley Owens exclaimed: “I thought it was amazing!”

Ashlyn Connelly added, “It was super good!”

When asked if all of their hard work to organize the event was worth it, CNA student Karley Wharton eagerly replied, “It was definitely worth it!”

Rappahannock County Public Schools Superintendent Shannon Grimsley was all smiles following the event.

“I am beyond proud of our little group of CNA students,” she said. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the first year of Rappahannock’s launch of this career and technical program, thanks to our partnership with RappU, than to pay it forward and inspire others. These girls exhibit the very values that Patch Adams said were required of the next generation of leaders if our society was to improve.”

Brittnay Woolman was just as equally proud of her CNA students for working so hard to achieve their goal: “Look what can happen when you dream big and think outside the box.”

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