Updated: Nov 5
On February 21, we lost one of the heroes of our times. Dr. Paul Farmer was dedicated to providing quality health care at no cost to the world’s poorest people. He began his mission in Haiti before he even started medical school and frequently traveled there to develop his clinic while earning his medical degree. In 1987, he co-founded Partners in Health, an organization committed to serving the poorest people in developing countries who lack access to good medical care.
Dr. Farmer became widely known after the publication in 2003 of a biography,
Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Tracy Kidder. It’s a compelling book about this irresistibly likeable man who was driven to provide the best health care to hopelessly ill patients first in Haiti, and later in Peru and Russia. Eventually Partners in Health expanded into six other countries as well as into the Navajo Nation. At Harvard University, Farmer was accorded the title of University Professor, the highest honor the University could bestow on one of its faculty.
Among the nine countries where Partners in Health now works are Sierra Leone and Liberia where Dr. Farmer witnessed firsthand the glaring inequities that contributed so much to the horrible loss of life to Ebola in 2014-2016. He wrote Fever, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History, published in 2020, to shed light on the shocking lack of the most basic health care in these two countries, squarely assigning blame to rich nations that extracted great wealth without reinvesting in health infrastructure.
At 62, this giant of a man has left us, but his legacy lives on both in his organization, Partners in Health, and in the ongoing commitment of his associates to make quality health care accessible to all.