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Remembering Dr. Paul Farmer

By Teresa Araco Rodgers and Abby Rolland

Photo by John Ra / Courtesy of Partners In Health

Upon the recent passing of Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health, harp-weaver’s Principal and Grants & Communications Manager reflected on his life and work.

Teresa Araco Rodgers, Principal

Dr. Paul Farmer’s contribution to delivering quality public health care globally is beyond imaginable - the life of one person has impacted so many. Farmer co-founded Partners in Health almost 40 years ago, and it remains one of the most effective and admired healthcare institutions in the world. His work evolved to treating HIV, infectious disease outbreaks, and medical catastrophes around the globe. I think one of the most profound and lasting impacts of his work, particularly in Haiti, is building up the public healthcare sector. It was Farmer that saw firsthand because of the rapid expansion of Partners in Health that you can’t build up the “Republic of NGOs” and ignore the local government and the deep poverty in so many countries. He became the preeminent healer to the poorest of the poor and oversaw the development of hospitals while inspiring generations of healthcare professionals from all over to join the cause.

Abby Rolland, Grants & Communications Manager

I first learned about Dr. Paul Farmer in my second semester of graduate school. I didn’t know what to expect from the course Ethics in Philanthropy and wasn’t familiar with Dr. Farmer’s story. Reading Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World opened my eyes to a man whose commitment to bettering humanity and the world surpassed almost anyone else’s. I was amazed at Dr. Farmer’s goals, his work, and how he combined an interest in the social determinants of health with his medical expertise. Not only did the book and Dr. Farmer’s work contribute to my understanding of philanthropic gifts and the ethical framing of giving back, I grew to deeply admire and respect Dr. Farmer’s extreme commitment to people and public health. To this day, I recommend the book to countless people. I’m not sure that most (if anyone) could compare in their dedication to enhancing the public good as Dr. Farmer, but I believe that his life of service examples serves as a powerful reminder of how each and every individual can make a difference.

Dr. Farmer will be missed, but his life will continue to serve as an example for all of us.

To read more about Dr. Farmer and Partners in Health, read his obituary in the New York Times.

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