Paul E. Farmer, the renowned Harvard physician and medical anthropologist who dedicated his career to providing health care to some of the world’s poorest communities, died at the age of 62. Farmer was a Harvard graduate and a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty.
According to Partners in Health, the global health group he co-founded in 1987, Farmer died peacefully in his sleep while visiting Rwanda in 2010. The cause of death was not disclosed by the organisation..
Farmer, a towering figure in global health, was commemorated Monday with words from a former president of the United States, members of the Harvard faculty, and top public health authorities, among others.
Farmer is survived by his wife, Didi Bertrand Farmer, and their three children, who were all born after his death.
Farmer has dedicated decades of his life to the fight against global health disparities. Partners in Health, which he co-founded with four people, is dedicated to improving public health infrastructure and providing medical care in the world’s poorest regions, particularly in developing countries. The group now has operations in 11 different nations throughout the world.
Partner in Health CEO Sheila Davis said in a statement that “Paul Farmer’s loss is tragic, but his vision for the world will live on through Partners in Health.” “Paul Farmer’s death is devastating, but his vision for the world will continue on through Partners in Health,” Davis said. “Paul instilled in everyone who came into contact with him the importance of accompaniment, love for one another, and unity.”
Professor at Harvard University, he was the author of 12 books and was also a well-known academic who conducted groundbreaking research on infectious diseases, health and human rights, and socioeconomic inequalities during his tenure there. In 2010, he was elevated to the rank of University Professor, which is the highest faculty honour at the university.
Farmers served as chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where he earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in public health science. At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he was also the Division of Global Health Equity’s chief executive officer.
Farmer, according to Harvard Medical Institution Dean George Q. Daley ’82, “represented the heart and soul” of the school in an email addressed to school affiliates on Monday afternoon.
According to Daley, Paul was “a compassionate physician and infectious disease specialist, a brilliant and influential medical anthropologist, and one of the greatest humanitarians of our time—if not the greatest humanitarians of all time.” “Paul dedicated his life to improving human health and advocating for health equity and social justice on a global scale,” he said. “His death has left me particularly distraught because he was not only a great colleague and a cherished mentor, but he was also a close friend.”
As news of Farmer’s death circulated throughout the world on Monday morning, tributes began to pour in from international leaders and other well-known academics.
“Paul was one of the most exceptional persons we have ever known,” former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and their daughter Chelsea Clinton said in a joint statement.
Paul Farmer changed the way health care is delivered in the most impoverished places on Earth. He saw every day as a new opportunity to teach, learn, give, and serve—and it was impossible to spend any time with him and not feel the same. Full statement: https://t.co/a5MgLrHeyE pic.twitter.com/nwodjTZ3g3
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) February 21, 2022
“His pioneering work with Partners In Health touched millions of lives, advanced global health equity, and fundamentally changed the way health care is delivered in the most impoverished places on Earth,” the Clintons wrote. “He was brilliant, passionate, kind, and humble. He saw every day as a new opportunity to teach, learn, give, and serve—and it was impossible to spend any amount of time with him and not feel the same.”
There were many awards and honours that Farmer was given. These include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Outstanding International Physician Award from the American Medical Association, and the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture. He also received the Hilton Humanitarian Prize, which was given with his PIH co-founders.
People who work for Harvard Anthropology Chair Ajantha Subramanian say this is a huge loss for them and for the world, because they can’t get back what they lost. “My heart goes out to those of you who were close to Paul.”
Admin of USAID Samantha J. Power said in a tweet that “Farmer gave everything, everything, to other people.”
“He saw the worst, but he did everything he could to make people happy.” Indefatigable, mischievous, generous, brilliant, soulful, sceptical, idealistic, and beloved are some of the words she wrote. “A big one.”