‘I Just Came Across Kindness’: Humanitarian Paul Farmer Dies

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Feb. 22, 2022 — Paul Edward Farmer, MD, a famend infectious illness specialist, humanitarian, and well being care champion for lots of the world’s most susceptible affected person populations, died out of the blue in his sleep from a cardiac occasion Monday in Rwanda, the place he had been instructing. He was 62.

Farmer co-founded the Boston-based international nonprofit Companions in Well being and spent a long time offering well being care to impoverished communities worldwide, combating on the frontline to guard underserved communities towards lethal pandemics.

Farmer was the Kolokotrones College professor and chair of the Division of World Well being and Social Medication within the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical College. He served as chief of the Division of World Well being Fairness at Brigham and Girls’s Hospital.

“Paul devoted his life to bettering human well being and advocating for well being fairness and social justice on a world scale,” Harvard Medical College Dean George Q. Daley stated in a letter to the varsity. “I’m significantly shaken by his passing as a result of he was not solely a consummate colleague and a beloved mentor, however an in depth buddy. To me, Paul represented the center and soul of Harvard Medical College.”

He was additionally chancellor and co-founder of the College of World Well being Fairness in Rwanda. Earlier than his loss of life, he had spent the previous a number of weeks instructing on the college.

“Paul Farmer’s loss is devastating, however his imaginative and prescient for the world will stay on by Companions in Well being,” Sheila Davis, CEO of the nonprofit well being group, stated in a press release. “Paul taught all these round him the facility of accompaniment, love for each other, and solidarity. Our deepest sympathies are together with his household.”

Farmer was born in North Adams, MA, and grew up in Florida together with his dad and mom and 5 siblings. He attended Duke College on a Benjamin N. Duke Scholarship and acquired his medical diploma in 1988, adopted by and his PhD in 1990 from Harvard College.

His humanitarian work started when he was a school scholar volunteering in Haiti in 1983, working with dispossessed farmers. In 1987, he co-founded Companions in Well being with the objective of serving to sufferers in poverty-stricken corners of the world.

Below Farmer’s management, the nonprofit tackled main public well being crises: Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, drug-resistant tuberculosis in Peru and different international locations, and an Ebola outbreak that tore by West Africa.

Farmer documented his 2014-2015 expertise treating Africa’s Ebola sufferers in a e book referred to as Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of Historical past.

He wrote that by the point he had arrived, “western Sierra Leone was floor zero of the epidemic, and Higher West Africa was simply concerning the worst place on the planet to be critically sick or injured.”

Considered one of his best qualities was his capability to attach with sufferers — to deal with them “not like ones who suffered, however like a pal you’d joke with,” stated Pardis Sabeti, MD, PhD, a Harvard College geneticist who additionally hung out in Africa and famously sequenced samples of the Ebola virus’s genome.

Sabeti and Farmer bonded over their love for Sierra Leone, together with their grief over shedding an in depth colleague to Ebola: Humarr Khan, who was one of many space’s main infectious illness consultants.

Sabeti first met Farmer years earlier as a first-year Harvard medical scholar when she enrolled in one in every of his programs. She stated college students launched themselves, one after the other, every veering into heartfelt testimonies about what Farmer’s work had meant to them.

Farmer and Sabeti have been simply texting on Saturday, and the 2 have been, “goofing round in our common means, and scheming about find out how to make the world higher, as we at all times did.”

Farmer was humorous, mischievous, and above all, precisely what you’d anticipate upon assembly him, Sabeti stated.

“It’s cliché, however the energetic kick you get from simply being in his presence, it’s nearly otherworldly,” she stated. “It’s not even otherworldly within the sense of, ‘I simply got here throughout greatness.’ It’s extra, ‘I simply got here throughout kindness.’”

Farmer’s work has been broadly distributed in publications together with Bulletin of the World Well being Group, The Lancet, TheNew England Journal of Medication, Medical Infectious Illnesses, and Social Science and Medication.

He was awarded the 2020 Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Tradition, the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Affiliation, the American Medical Affiliation’s Excellent Worldwide Doctor (Nathan Davis) Award, and, together with his Companions in Well being colleagues, the Hilton Humanitarian Prize.

He’s survived by his spouse, Didi Bertrand Farmer, and their three kids.



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