Paul Farmer

by Katie from San Diego

Farmer talking to a patient (Academy of Achievement)
Farmer talking to a patient (Academy of Achievement)

"It is easy to romanticize poverty, to see poor people as inherently lacking agency and will. It is easy to strip them of human dignity, to reduce them to objects of pity. This has never been clearer than in the view of Africa from the American media, in which we are shown poverty and conflicts without any context." ("Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie." Brainy). This quote describes Paul Farmer quite well, because he sees the impoverished of the world not as beings of pity, but actual humans. Paul Farmer is someone so dedicated to helping the Haitian people; that when chance of failure is high he will keep trying. This diligent work helps define his heroics. He found his calling in Haiti, where the poor needed him much more than prestigious hospitals ever will. He founded Partners In Health in 1987 with Ophelia Dahl. Tom White donated money to PIH, helping Farmer's cause, and Farmer raised money to buy blood-bank supplies so people wouldn't die from lack of blood transfusion. Paul Farmer is now a Haitian himself, through marriage when he married Didi Bertrand in 1996. Paris, France is important to him because that's where his wife Didi and daughter Catherine live. Farmer's father died at age 49 in July 1984, when Farmer was 25. A hero must possess intelligence, understanding who needs help and be able to help solve their problems. They need to be caring, to not look down on anybody. They also need to be selfless, to assist someone who needs their help, which are defining qualities of a hero. Paul Farmer is deserving of the title 'Hero' because he is intelligent, caring, and selfless.

Paul Farmer is intelligent and uses said intelligence to help the destitute of the world, starting with their health. He wields this intelligence to help the poor because: "He holds an M.D. and a PHD, both from Harvard University. He is currently the Kolokotrones University Professor in the Harvard University Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, and has served as the chair of the department in the past." ("Paul Farmer." Contemporary...). He is certified in the medical fields needed to be able to take care of all the Haitian's needs, and he worked hard in medical school to be able to pass and get a license to practice medicine. This shows his intelligence by proving that he is smart enough to get an M.D, and a Ph.D., both awarded to him at Harvard. With Harvard's prestigious reputation as an admirable medical school, his degrees show that he truly is intelligent. Another reason of his intelligence is that he loved the Haitian people, and: "He was mastering Creole 'like a rat,' in the Haitian idiom, and he stopped to talk with peasants wherever he could, soaking up information" (Kidder, Tracy). He was mastering the Creole language super fast, and he'd talk with natives whenever he could, proving his intelligence. He talked with the people of Haiti whenever he could, regardless of what he was doing, and with that dedication, the knowledge of the language and land came to him. It is proven by his rational choices that Farmer is an intelligent man.

Farmer giving a clean bill of health to a patient (EbscoHost, Biography Reference Center ())
Farmer giving a clean bill of health to a patient (EbscoHost, Biography Reference Center ())

Paul Farmer is a caring man who will do anything to help his patients. These caring qualities are shown when he says this: "I can say some things with certainty: These problems are compelling to almost anyone who experiences them in a first-hand manner. One of the reasons that more people do not remain involved in such work is that it's difficult, and many projects and efforts fail" ("Paul Farmer" Contemporary...). Paul Farmer is someone so dedicated to helping the Haitian people, and people in general, that when chance of failure is high, he will keep trying. This diligence helps define his heroic qualities as a caring and kind person. He knows that the risk of failure is high, as is risk of exposure to illnesses; he still cares enough to ignore risks and help the people who need him. He is also caring in other ways, with one of the ways being shown when he started "Turning his back on the affluent trappings of Duke, Farmer began sensitizing himself to the centuries-old plight of the poor" (Kidder, Tracy). Farmer could've stayed at Duke and become a rich doctor with a comfortable life, but he decided to leave that behind and learn the story of the destitute, vowing to do whatever he can to help them. He cares about these people enough to leave the path that could've taken him to a comfortable life with no hardships, but his decision to help the poor displays his caring and helpful nature, something looked for in a hero. Another example of how Farmer is caring is when in the village of Cange, where the hospital Zanmi Lasante is located. It is run by PIH, and "One day a soldier entered the clinic compound carrying a gun...'You can't bring a gun in here,'...'Who are you to tell me what to do?'...'I'm the person who's going to take care you when you get sick' "(Kidder, Tracy.). Even when a soldier threatened Farmer with a gun, he wouldn't back down and said. Even though the soldier was against him, he would still treat him, out of the compassion in his heart. That struck a chord with the soldier, because he knew of the reputation of Paul Farmer as a doctor famous around Cange for being of help anyone, regardless of whether or not they have money. Being caring is doing something for somebody regardless of how they reward you, and Paul Farmer displays the highest amount of caring towards his patients, all of whom are very grateful.

Farmer is a selfless person who cares more about his patients than his own health. In fact, he's so selfless, that: "Farmer's taken two vacations in 13 years-each forced by injury or illness. He's far from dour, but to call him devoted is to note that the sun shines." (Hellman, Ira. "Dr. Paul Farmer."). He is so selfless, that in the span of thirteen years, he has only taken two vacations, initiated by injury or illness. He is so dedicated to his work that vacations are less valued than his patients. He won't rest until every person he can save is saved. Another example of his selflessness is when he was talking to an American doctor and Farmer thought: "When it came to medicine, was a physician supposed to have priorities about where he worked according to his citizenship? Weren't we all human beings first? "(Kidder, Tracy.). He would try his best to heal any and all impoverished who need access to medical care, regardless of nationality or ability to pay, and that is what is most needed in a doctor, selflessness. Nationality is as important to him as a vacation is. It doesn't matter when there are so many better things to worry about. He doesn't care about nationalities, he cares about the world, and this quote shows that. "Mother Jones contributor John Brady wrote: "Farmer's first priority is to awaken us to the suffering of the world's 'nobodies.'' ("Paul Farmer."Contemporary...). His first priority is to make the lives of the poor better so they can rise up in society and ultimately, make the world a better place, that these nobodies are just as important as all the other people in the world. He could just sit back and let someone else take care of it all, but he throws himself in there and it's done well, because of all the books he's written and the books and articles written about him, people are more aware of the health needs of the poor. A little bit of selflessness can go a long way, and Paul Farmer helped us realize that.

Farmer performing a check-up on a patient (Academy of Achievement)
Farmer performing a check-up on a patient (Academy of Achievement)

Deserving heroes are intelligent, caring, and selfless. Paul Farmer chose the hard, but rewarding path in decided to dedicate his life to people of the world in need of medical help. This choice not only benefitted the people receiving his medical care, but the world because PIH, led by Paul Farmer, find cures for diseases that don't have a cure yet. They then show the cure to the health programs internationally. He also visits the poor to give them hope and promise to find a way to help them. He inspires hope in all the people he meets, as well as a desire to make the right choice and help people. He doesn't looks down on anybody, and is always friendly and happy to chat, especially to a patient. He will also treat patients with contagious diseases, because though he can catch them, he will still treat anyone and everyone. Paul Farmer is an inspiration to others in the sense that: "Nothing made him happier than seeing a patient beating all odds to make a recovery." (Kidder, Tracy.). He is an inspiration because the greatest thing for him to witness is a patient recovering. Knowing that he did that and being that change is so inspiring. He won't ask for money or anything in return, just seeing the patient's smile makes it all worth it. He is setting an example, trying to make the world a more giving place. Another reason he is an inspiration is: "...he didn't dwell on third-world myths, such as beliefs in sorcery, but chose to challenge first-world ones...The poor needed education, jobs, and decent housing." (Kidder, Tracy.)This is another point proving that Farmer is an inspiration because he doesn't just cure diseases; he stops illnesses at the roots to make the world a better place. He understands that the poor have trouble helping themselves, and he knows that to help them, he needs to step up and say something. That is inspirational because that is an example to the rest of us, and now we know that we should step up and help the less fortunate. That is why Paul Farmer is deserving of the title hero.

Works Cited

"Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie." Xplore Inc, 2015. 11 February 2015.

Hellman, Ira. "Dr. Paul Farmer." Biography 5.9 (2001): 82. Biography Reference Center. Web. 4

Feb. 2015.

Kidder, Tracy. Mountains beyond Mountains. New York: Random House, 2003. Print.

"Paul Farmer Biography." -- Academy of Achievement. Academy of Achievement, 4 Dec. 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2015.

"Paul Farmer." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2012. Biography in Context. Web.

28 Jan. 2015.

Page created on 2/13/2015 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 2/13/2015 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Academy of Achievement - Academy of Achievement is a museum of living history
Partners in Health - Health is a human right

Extra Info

Books by Paul Farmer: AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame; Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues; Haiti: After the Earthquake a book