Paul Farmer, pioneer in global health, dies at 62

Paul Farmer, a physician and anthropologist who sought to bring high-quality health care to some of the world’s poorest people, died Monday in Rwanda. He was 62 years old.

Partners in Health, the global public health organization Dr. Farmer co-founded, announced his death in a statement that did not specify the cause. Dr. Farmer previously lived in Rwanda and spent decades focusing on improving its healthcare system.

Dr. Farmer achieved public fame largely through “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World”, a 2003 book by Tracy Kidder. It told the story of Dr. Farmer’s life and celebrated his dedication to helping those most in need.

After graduating from college in 1982, Dr. Farmer lived for years among Haiti’s poorest farmers, sleeping only an hour or two a night as he built new medical infrastructure.

He eventually returned to the United States to attend Harvard Medical School and earn a degree in anthropology, but he continued to spend much of his time in Cange, the community where he built his first clinic, returning to Harvard to examinations and laboratory work.

Over the years that followed, Dr. Farmer raised millions of dollars, which were funneled into an ever-expanding network of community health facilities. He had an infectious enthusiasm; When Thomas White, who owned a large construction company in Boston, asked to meet him, he insisted that the meeting take place in Haiti.

Mr. White became a lead donor and gave $1 million in seed money to Partners in Health, which Dr. Farmer founded in 1987, along with Ophelia Dahl, another volunteer in Haiti, and a former classmate of Duke, Todd McCormack.

The clinic in Haiti grew from a single room over the years into a hospital and an adjoining nursing school, serving a community of more than 150,000 people.

Dr. Farmer has become a public health luminary, the subject of a 2017 documentary, “Bending the Arc,” and the author of 12 books. The latest, “Fevers, Feuds and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History”, sought to dispel the most sinister misconceptions about the disease and focus on the shortage of essential health care in upper East Africa. Where is.

“For all their rush,” Dr. Farmer wrote, “their citizens are stuck in the medical wasteland.”

In 2020, Dr. Farmer received the $1 million Berggruen Prize, awarded annually to an individual whose ideas have “profoundly shaped human self-understanding and advancement in a rapidly changing world” .

Prize committee chair Kwame Anthony Appiah said Dr Farmer had “reshaped our understanding” of “what it means to treat health as a human right and the ethical and political obligations that come with it”.

Dr. Farmer’s survivors include his wife, Didi Bertrand Farmer, a researcher for Partners in Health, and their children, Elizabeth, Catherine and Sebastian.

A full obituary will be published shortly.

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