Remembering Dr. Paul Farmer: His Leadership, Advocacy, and Legacy
Written by Tia Livingston, Global Health Economics Fellow at HFI
I remember the first global health class I ever attended as a college student at the University of Pennsylvania. Looking back at that moment, the first book I ever read based on global health, Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction by Dr. Paul Farmer and some of his colleagues allowed me to look at public health from a distinct perspective, forcing me to think about the importance of global health and global security. In addition, Farmer’s global impact allowed countries to operate with global partners in solidarity to produce and innovatively improve institutions with public health authorities.
Dr. Paul Farmer, a global health visionary and beacon of hope in global health, unexpectedly passed away in Rwanda on February 21, 2022. Farmer, who co-founded and was Chief Strategist of Partners in Health (PIH), held an MD and Ph.D. from Harvard University.
PIH was founded in 1987 and focused on raising awareness of global health and increasing global knowledge of modern medical science. Through his non-profit efforts, he demonstrated the importance of global health equity, equality, and the efforts needed to dismantle structural violence.
His fight against structurally based global health inequities made him a global health pioneer based not only on his treatment of his patients but also on his movement of actors who could create change. His work in Haiti, one of the first nations he traveled to, allowed him to develop an extensive healthcare network of hospitals and health posts which now delivers care to more than 1.3 million people in Haiti. Improving the delivery of healthcare to marginalized communities allowed him to influence academics, scholars, scientists, and medical doctors and the structural building of systems.
If a person died from tuberculosis in the 18th century, it would be hard to conceive of this as violence since it might have been quite unavoidable, but if he dies from it today, despite all the medical resources in the world, then violence is present. — Paul Farmer
HFI’s values are based on expanding capacities and building up systems for healthcare delivery for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and communicable diseases. His influence is alive and thriving through each of us, establishing him as a fighter for global health for all. HFI wants to acknowledge Dr. Farmer’s tenacity, endless advocacy efforts, and tireless work to make the world see the importance of what global health means. His leadership and legacy will forever be remembered.