Paul Farmer: A Global Health Visionary

Paul Farmer was an incredibly kind and caring figure in the global health world and focused on delivering quality healthcare in areas with limited access to medical resources. He was a renowned medical anthropologist and physician who will be remembered as a global health champion – teaching, writing, and speaking about the need for humanitarian work to center around moral rather than financial drivers.

Farmer was the founder of the nonprofit organization Partners in Health. Before his death, Paul was working as Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, and Co-founder and chief strategist of Partners in Health. Paul’s work in the global health field, but specifically his focus on treating HIV and multidrug resistant tuberculosis in areas with limited access to medical resources inspired much of AIGHD’s research and projects throughout the years.

Partners in Health began in 1987 aimed at delivering health care to resource scarce settings. The organization works in countries around the world, including, but not limited to Haiti, Kazakhstan, Liberia and Peru.

When Partners in Health opened an office in Rwanda, Paul helped the government restructure its country healthcare system. This helped to improve HIV infection rates and infant mortality outcomes within the country. Just before his passing, Paul worked with Partners in Health and the Rwandan government to build a hospital complex focused on health and health education in the mountain town of Butaro, Rwanda.

As an anthropologist and M.D., Paul tried to look at a patient holistically. He was a practitioner of ‘social medicine’ and argued that illness often comes from social circumstances and therefore must be addressed through social structures. His colleagues describe him as one of the “most selfless medical professionals in human history whose death will not go unnoticed”. Paul’s work in the HIV, TB and humanitarian world cements a profound legacy for generations to come.

AIGHD’s Frank Cobelens collaborated with Partners in Health, and shares his thoughts on the passing of Dr. Farmer:

“With Prof Farmer’s passing the world has lost an inspirational leader in global health. His work and that by the organization he built and led, Partners in Health, has been at the forefront of finding approaches to improve access of the poorest to effective treatment and care for HIV, multidrug resistant tuberculosis and Covid-19, amongst others. Our thoughts are with his family and his co-workers.”

We extend our sincerest condolences to Paul Farmer’s family, friends and colleagues.