Obituaries and Memories of Dr. Paul Farmer, Founder of Partners in Health

Dr. Paul Farmer, cofounder of Partners In Health. (Photo by Partners In Health)

From Partners in Health:

“Partners In Health announced that its founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, unexpectedly passed away today in Rwanda from an acute cardiac event while he was sleeping. 

“Dr. Farmer was 62 years old. He is survived by his wife, Didi Bertrand Farmer, and their three children….

Partners In Health CEO Dr. Sheila Davis released the following statement:

“Paul Farmer’s loss is devastating, but his vision for the world will live on through Partners in Health. Paul taught all those around him the power of accompaniment, love for one another, and solidarity. Our deepest sympathies are with his family.”

Read the full story: Remembering Dr. Paul Farmer

From PBS:

From CNN:

“Dr. Paul Farmer, a physician who championed global health and sought to bring modern medical science to those most in need around the world, died unexpectedly in his sleep in Rwanda on Monday…

“Partners in Health, founded in 1987, had two goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair.

“In addition to the work he did as co-founder and chief strategist of Partners in Health, Farmer was chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.”

Read the full story and watch the video: Dr. Paul Farmer, global health giant, dies at 62

From NPR:

“In addition to starting hospitals in Rwanda and Haiti, Farmer helped bring lifesaving HIV drugs to the people of Haiti in the early 2000s.But those who work with him say his legacy is even more sweeping than that.

“In 1987, Farmer co-founded Partners in Health in Haiti with the mission to provide high-quality care to patients from impoverished backgrounds and those living far from health care facilities. Over the next three decades, PIH expanded to countries across Africa and Latin America, to Russia and to the Navajo Nation in the United States.

“Writer Tracy Kidder profiled Farmer in his 2003 book, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, which later became required reading for many a student and practitioner in global health.”

Read and listen to the full story: Global health champion Dr. Paul Farmer has died

From The New York Times:

“He was a practitioner of ‘social medicine,’ arguing there was no point in treating patients for diseases only to send them back into the desperate circumstances that contributed to them in the first place. Illness, he said, has social roots and must be addressed through social structures.

“His work with Partners in Health significantly influenced public health strategies for responding to tuberculosis, HIV and Ebola. During the AIDS crisis in Haiti, he went door to door to deliver antiviral medication, confounding many in the medical field who believed it would be impossible for poor rural people to survive the disease.

“Though he worked in the world of development, he often took a critical view of international aid, preferring to work with local providers and leaders. And he often lived among the people he was treating, moving his family to Rwanda and Haiti for extended periods.”

Read the full story: Paul Farmer, Pioneer of Global Health, Dies at 62

From NPR “Goats and Soda”, a poignant personal essay from Dr. Sriram Shamasunder:

“I first met Paul when I was 19, as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley over 20 years ago…. He had made a promise to stand with the most destitute in a community in central Haiti, struggling to provide what the Jesuits have called a “preferential option for the poor.” For Paul that meant access to care we would want for our mother or our brothers. We could hear it in his voice and feel it in his presence.

“Like so many before me, so early in my career, he made me feel as if I were making the only career decision that made sense — choosing what he called “pragmatic solidarity” alongside the poor. He conveyed with his words, the irresistibility of social medicine, where health workers aim to address the root causes of disease in its social and economic context.”

Read the full essay: With love and tears: My first and last memories of Dr. Paul Farmer

From Keren Landman at Vox:

“For everyone grieving this premature loss of a warrior for the poor — and others just learning about Farmer for the first time — his life offers lessons on how to help people in need andcreate the communities we want. It can serve as a roadmap back to hope.”

The secret to his success? These four lessons:

  • Engage communities in designing the solutions to their problems, and don’t blame them for their lack of resources
  • Be willing to work within existing power structures, even if you don’t like them
  • Get the data you need to tell a good story
  • Get comfortable with some discomfort

Read the full essay: 4 lessons from the life of global health visionary Paul Farmer

From Penny Warren at The Guardian:

“Paul Farmer, the physician, anthropologist and visionary leader of the American non-profit organisation Partners in Health (PIH), defied sceptics who said poor countries are “health deserts”. Forging partnerships between governments, academic institutions and philanthropists, he made it possible for even the poorest communities to have world-class hospitals and astonishingly successful health programmes.

“Farmer, who has died suddenly aged 62, co-founded PIH in 1987 and led its work in 12 countries, including Haiti, Rwanda, Peru and Sierre Leone, with 18,000 staff. A passionate believer in social justice and building local capacity, he said medical treatment is not enough if people are sick because they are starving and destitute. He said PIH had to be “the house of yes”, working with government partners to build wraparound care that met both short- and long-term needs, from cash so patients could buy food, to community health workers, sanitation, hospitals and schools.”

Read the full article: Paul Farmer obituary: Medical anthropologist and humanitarian dedicated to providing healthcare to some of the world’s poorest communities

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