Dr. Paul Farmer, a trailblazing physician, anthropologist and public health leader who brought quality healthcare to impoverished regions of the world, most notably in Haiti and Rwanda, has died at the age of 62. He passed away February 21 in a hospital he helped build in Butaro, Rwanda.
Dr. Farmer at amfAR’s 2014 Capitol Hill Summit
With fellow Harvard graduate and future head of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Kim, and others, Dr. Farmer founded the organization Partners in Health in 1987. Serving the healthcare needs of resource-limited communities, Partners in Health evolved over the years into a community healthcare network with 16 sites and 7,000 employees across Haiti. Today it also operates in Lesotho, Malawi, Mexico, Peru, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Russia, and the Navajo Nation.
An advocate, writer and educator, Dr. Farmer was chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. In 2012, he was appointed UN Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Community-Based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti. Among numerous accolades, he was the 2020 recipient of the million-dollar Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture, awarded each year for “ideas of broad significance for shaping human self-understanding and the advancement of humanity.”
Dr. Farmer’s remarkable journey was chronicled in the acclaimed book by Pulitzer prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man who Would Cure the World.
In an engrossing interview with veteran journalist Judy Woodruff at an amfAR Capitol Hill Summit in 2014, Dr. Farmer reflected on his experiences providing treatment and care to people living with HIV/AIDS in Haiti and Rwanda.“When you’re focusing not on what’s good for the doctors and nurses, but on what’s good for the patients,” said Farmer, “you move all the care to them [via community health workers], so that patients are not inconvenienced, so they don’t have to travel miles for treatment, and that’s when you see a turnaround."
The board and staff of amfAR extend their heartfelt condolences to Dr. Farmer’s wife and family.