Remembering Paul Farmer

February 22nd, 2022 | News


Today we join the many voices celebrating Paul Farmer’s passion, spirit, and clarity of vision.  He was a humanitarian in every sense of the word who reminded us constantly that the falsehood that some lives matter more than others is at the core of inequities in health.

It didn’t matter if he was talking about health in Port au Prince, Kigali, Freetown, or Boston; he was unwavering, some may say relentless, in his insistence on health systems that meet the needs of women, children, and men and that are strong enough to withstand shocks to the health system. It is not enough to respond to the latest crisis, be it HIV, TB, Ebola, or COVID-19; Paul knew that local approaches and solutions led by affected communities are required. He modeled those approaches and showed the world that it was possible to fully treat people for HIV in developing countries, that you could dispense the rigorous TB treatment required for six months through directly observed treatment (DOTS).

As a groundbreaking public health pioneer and founder of Partners in Health, Paul strove to improve community health and helped to ensure that the people with the most limited access receive the highest quality health services. He fought for every human who crossed the clinic door to receive not a “minimum” but the “maximum package” of services.

And we are reminded that he never lost sight of the fact that every statistic is made up of countless individual stories. To see Paul in action was to see him in the clinic. He was an advocate and a firebrand who would not take no for an answer when a solution was clear.

In addition to his role at Partners in Health (PIH), Farmer was the chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. JSI partnered with PIH in Sierra Leone, developing and implementing programs to support Ebola survivors who were heavily stigmatized during and after the Ebola epidemic. Our partnership with PIH enabled the roll-out of mental health and neurology capacity building for health care workers (nurses and physicians) providing services to Ebola survivors and affected individuals in the country.

“Paul Farmer was an extraordinary humanitarian who had a vision of global health equity and social justice, and an incredible ability to rally people around that vision,” commented Margaret Crotty, JSI CEO and president. “We take this moment to renew our commitment to our continuing fight against disparities in health around the world.”

Paul is survived by his wife, Didi Bertrand Farmer, and their children, as well as the millions of people whose lives have been saved by the approaches and services he championed.

Photo by John Ra / Partners In Health

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