A LOSS OF A SELFLESS GIANT IN THE MEDICAL WORLD
The field of medicine lost one of its most important physicians when Dr. Paul Farmer died at age 62 on February 21st, 2022, from a cardiac event. Farmer’s legacy will live on through the continuing operations of Partners in Health, the global health organization which he started. Today, Partners in Health has a staff of over 18,000 and operates in 11 different countries. Also having significant influence in the implementation of public health strategies for responding to Tuberculosis, H.I.V. and Ebola.
Farmer attended Harvard Medical School, and eventually became chairman of the department of Global Health and Social Medicine at the medical school. He was an exemplary practitioner and extremely devoted to his patients. Oftentimes, he would walk hours to visit patients and ensure that they were following their medicine protocols. The public became aware of his dedication to his patients with the publication of his biography by Tracy Kidder entitled “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.” Dr. Farmer was a prolific writer, authoring 12 books.
Dr. Farmer was focused on providing healthcare services directly to the poor people of the world living in third world nations. His mission in life was to bring the advantages of modern medicine to countries with underfunded and non-sufficient healthcare systems. He believed in social medicine – it was not enough for medical providers to just treat physical ailments. In order to ensure a healthy and well-functioning populace, the social causes of illness needed to be addressed by either governments, or, in their absence, non-governmental organizations such as Partners In Health. With respect to the furnishing of international aid to the developing world, Dr. Farmer preferred working with local providers and leaders. He raised millions of dollars for the establishment of a network of community medical clinics in countries such as Haiti and Rwanda. Where possible, Dr. Farmer staffed those clinics with local doctors and nurses that he helped train. In Haiti, what started as a single room clinic is now a network of 16 medical centers with a staff of over 7,000. In order to make sure that he would directly supervise the operations of his organization, Dr. Farmer moved his family for long periods of time to Rwanda and Haiti.
Recently, Dr. Farmer made headlines in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic when he fought for the pharmaceutical companies to drop the patent protection of their vaccines to allow them to be replicated and manufactured directly in third world countries. In 2020, in recognition of his extraordinary contributions, Dr. Farmer was awarded the $1 million Berggruen Prize, given annually to individuals who advance ideas that help shape the world we live in. The chairman of the prize committee highlighted the gifts that Dr. Farmer had brought to humanity, stating that Dr. Farmer had “reshaped our understanding” of “what it means to treat health as a human right and the ethical and political obligations that follow.”
Goodman, Brenda. “Dr. Paul Farmer, global health giant, dies at 62.” CNN, 21 February 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/21/health/paul-farmer-partners-in-health/index.html. Accessed 7 March 2022.
Traub, Alex. “Paul Farmer, Pioneer of Global Health, Dies at 62.” The New York Times, 22 February 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/21/obituaries/paul-farmer-dead.html. Accessed 7 March 2022.