What Robin Williams & Patch Adams Taught Us About Healing Disease

The shocking loss of extraordinary actor, comedian, and deeply felt human being Robin Williams swept the nation with an outpouring of sentiment last week. And of the many phenomenally wise characters Williams played throughout his career, none is more poignant to us at ph360 than his portrayal of Dr. Patch Adams, in the eponymous film.

While we love the story’s heartening take on the power of laughter to heal, there is one line in the film that embodies ph360 philosophy as well as anything we’ve ever written. As Patch, Williams says, “You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I’ll guarantee you’ll win.”

The genius behind this philosophy of healing, wellness, and medicine is perfect in its simplicity: Every individual needs a unique approach to their health and wellbeing in order to thrive. No two people have the same set of of genes, and even the same disease in two people must be treated differently in order to honor the individual’s distinct physical and epigenetic challenges.

Epigenetics is the scientific study of external environmental influences on how your genes are expressed. So while the humanistic component of Patch’s musing is deeply resonant, it’s just as true on a scientific level. Depending on the environment in which we live, the foods we eat, the ways we exercise, our profession, and many other factors, we will face distinct challenges and demands in our healing process.

The best way to approach health, then, is just as Patch advises: Treat yourself, rather than your symptoms. Get to know the unique challenges you face given your body’s needs. Learn how your body heals. Don’t look to other people’s diets, fitness regimens, or lifestyles to find your cure—discover the wisdom inherent in your own DNA.

If we can honor Williams’ bright and vibrant talent in any way, we hope it’s this: By spreading the gospel of treating the individual, rather than the disease, we can support every human being to become their best possible self. Learn how ph360 can help you treat all the unique facets of who you are today.

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Matt Riemann

Author: Matt Riemann

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