A Name Worth Remembering: Paul Farmer

Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering

Theodore Roosevelt-

Every once in a while you come across the story of a person that changes your life.  There have been a few of those in my life so far and perhaps none that has shaped my beliefs and thoughts more than the story of Paul Farmer as I read it within the pages of Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder and then in some of Dr. Farmer’s own works.  Dr. Farmer grew up with his large family living in a bus and also a boat for a while and the went on to become one of the world’s most renowned doctors.  We could all learn from Dr. Farmer’s drive, love of people and genuine concern for the marginalized in the world.

I met Paul Farmer in the Port au Prince airport once.  Now something you need to know about me is that I am not the kind of person to go out of my way to talk to people.  But there I was sitting in the airport when I saw him.  Wanting to be sure I asked an airport employee who he was and the man replied by telling me he is a doctor and a friend of Aristide’s (Aristide was a former president of Haiti). I knew at that point that this was in fact Dr. Farmer.  So I approached him with a reverence usually reserved only for Kentucky basketball players (at some point in life we have to start admiring people like doctors more than basketball players) introduced myself, said I admired his work and then told him that I would let him get to his plane.  He replied by telling me that he had time before his flight and he then initiated about a ten-minute conversation in which we talked about books, Haiti, liberation theology and the city of Cincinnati (where I went to college).  The conversation ended with him giving me his email address and we even exchanged a few messages up until the earthquake.  I was amazed at how such a busy and important person would take time to talk to me, a twenty four year old kid wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals.

Paul Farmer has revolutionized the way in which the global poor receive healthcare, and also the way in which tuberculosis is treated around the globe.  It is safe to say that he has literally changed the world.  I could write a lengthy biography on his life so far but I will leave that to the professionals.  Below are some quotes and other resources that you should read.

Dr. Paul Farmer is one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever known  -Bill Clinton

If the world is curious about Paul Farmer, there is a reason for that. No one has done more than he has in bringing modern medicine to the poor across the globe and no one has exceeded him in making us appreciate the diverse barriers that prevent proper medicine from reaching the underdogs of the world. –Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate, Economics

For me, an area of moral clarity is: you’re in front of someone who’s suffering and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it, and you act. –Paul Farmer

I’m one of six kids, and the eight of us lived for over a decade in either a bus or a boat. -Paul Farmer

So I can’t show you how, exactly, health care is a basic human right. But what I can argue is that no one should have to die of a disease that is treatable. -Paul Farmer

Further Reading

Amazon’s Collection of Paul Farmer’s Complete Works

Global Health Champions

Dr. Farmer’s Remedy

The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer

Champion of The Poor

Mountains Beyond Mountains– by Tracy Kidder

Partners in Health– The organization Farmer helped create.

Wikipedia Entry on Paul Farmer

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Categories: A Name Worth Remembering

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  1. A Name Worth Remembering: Dr. Norman Borlaug | thethingaboutflying - July 4, 2012

    […] field and his obvious concern for the world’s poor places him in a category with names like Paul Farmer and Mother Teresa.  Again, instead of compiling a high school level report on a man who deserves […]

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