Dr. Paul Farmer

by Trinity West

Dr. Paul Farmer speaking at the Global Exchange Awards ceremony
Dr. Paul Farmer speaking at the Global Exchange Awards ceremony

Editor's note: In 2009, after a series of fierce storms, Paul Farmer joined President Clinton as a volunteer to help Haiti "build back better". He has been working tirelessly, and after the fierce earthquake that struck on Jan. 12, 2010 he has redoubled his efforts. He is currently helping to organize medical aid and supplies to help victims of the earthquake.

“Save the world.” This is a notion so far removed from the obvious impacts of everyday life, that it is now cliché. Fortunately, there are citizens like Dr. Paul Farmer who consider this a moral responsibility, and whose tireless efforts specifically confront the struggle against the growing amount of worldwide health care crises. In fact, Dr. Farmer is the face of pristine humility as he comments on the personal impact of his work in Haiti, “We receive a direct response from the people we serve. We receive a direct response from patients, whose families are brought out of poverty by medical care and a job. What could be better than that on a bad day?”

His work began in 1983 when he was a student, working with a local priest in the villages in Cange, Haiti. He and his colleagues found themselves dealing with illnesses so primal they had been eradicated and no longer dealt with in modern medical curriculum. Together they would form a community-based health project, Clinique Bon Saveur, which consequently did galvanize the non-profit Partners In Health (PIH).

PIH was founded in 1987 by Dr. Farmer, Thomas J. White, and Todd McCormack and were subsequently joined by Ophelia Dahl and Jim Yong Kim. Its mission was initially in support of on-going efforts in Central Haiti, which included a clinic and a training program for community health-workers. Today, there are PIH supported projects in a total of seven countries including Siberia, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, and the USA. Clinics treat illnesses that range from AIDS and Tuberculosis to ear infections and general check-ups.

The efforts of PIH are deeply rooted in the medical and the moral. The range of support given to patience extends from providing them with medial care and clean water, to lobbying the policy makers for effective changes in legislature.

In 2002, Dr. Farmer played a fundamental role qualifying Haiti as one of the first groups of countries awarded funds from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. He currently works with the World Health Organization as the chief medical advisor for the tuberculosis Treatment Project in the Prison of Tomsk (Siberia).

The list of accolades in which Dr. Farmer has received is extensive. In the last decade alone he has been awarded with the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur “genius award” in 1993, the Heinz Award for the Human Condition in 2003, and most recently with the Global Exchange International Human Rights Award presented to him this year.

Further exemplifying his keen devotion of human equality, he graciously comments on receiving his most recent award, the Global Exchange International Human Rights Award, “That’s why I came here tonight, because they organize, mostly, Americans to think hard about other places and really humanize the rest of the world”.

In addition to the extensive work in which Dr. Farmer personally engages, he offers a suggestion on what kids can do to make the world a safe and better place. “ (Attending school) is a chance where you’re really allowed out to find a lot about the world.” He continues, “be really critical of what you hear in the mainstream media and the key issues of our day – anything from war to places like what’s going on in Haiti. Be really critical and about that, and learn about it – and learn on your own.”

There is no question that Dr. Paul Farmer is a hero to many people throughout the world. Of his own heroes, he eloquently states, “I think a lot of people are everyday heroes. I mean, that may sound cliché or something that you hear a lot. But, people at the clinic in Haiti or women who have several children and no job, and who are maybe sick and still manage to pull things together, to feed the families and keep the kids safe. That’s pretty heroic stuff if you ask me. The real heroes are the people who have to struggle to get by and still save time for thinking about other people - It’s not just (about) their kids, it’s about others. So, my heroes’ names are probably not known. But, they are in Guatemala and Rwanda, and Haiti and El Salvador.”

Dr. Farmer embraces the most challenging issues and offers his sincere devotion, professionally and personally, to ensuring that all of humanity is entitled to the very basic standards of living: proper medical care and the means to prevent sicknesses. His efforts are tenacious in his humble disposition. His contributions are sterling yet modest. He is the face of pure heroism.

Page created on 9/4/2011 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 9/4/2011 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

Partners In Health - PIH, Health Care for the Poor

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This story was made possible by a grant from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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