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Paul Farmer

MD, PhD (In Memoriam)

Paul Farmer.webp

Paul Farmer was Kolokotrones University Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and Co-founder and Chief Strategist of Partners In Health (PIH). Dr. Farmer made a truly outsized impact in the field of public health. He was a champion for the most underserved populations globally, working tirelessly to address health disparities. As Co-founder and Chief Strategist of PIH, a global public health organization with 19,000 employees (the largest group of clinicals among PIH staff are nurses and midwives), Dr. Farmer significantly influenced public health strategies for responding to and delivering health care to some of the world’s poorest people. 


Dr. Farmer and the PIH team, working with local providers and leaders, responded to a wide variety of the most pressing health crises and emergencies including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and Ebola, serving over 8 million people in 12 countries since it was established in 1987. He and his colleagues pioneered novel, community-based treatment strategies that demonstrated the delivery of high-quality health care in resource-poor settings. Dr. Farmer was also vigorously involved in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and urged the Biden administration to drop intellectual property barriers that prevent pharmaceutical companies from sharing their technology. According to PIH CEO, Sheila Davis, DNP, ANP-BC, FAAN, “Throughout his lifetime, Paul was a staunch believer in the value of nursing and the extraordinary role that nurses and midwives play in the strategic delivery of health care. His perspective on nursing was largely shaped by humility and exposure to the incredible work nurses were doing at PIH’s care delivery sites.”


Dedicated to the advancement and education of nurses worldwide, Dr. Farmer led the creation of the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda, which houses the Center for Nursing & Midwifery, and the Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais in Haiti, which trains nurses for surgery, neonatal intensive care, oncology, emergency, and other specialties. In addition to his work with PIH, Dr. Farmer wrote extensively on health, human rights, and the consequences of social inequality. He authored multiple books, including; In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction, and To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation, and Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History.


He was a teacher, mentor, writer, colleague and friend, but most importantly, he was a gifted and compassionate health care professional who believed all human beings deserve equal respect and care, particularly when sick. Until the very last day of his life, he worked to repair health inequities among and within countries of the world. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, from which he was the recipient of the 2018 Public Welfare Medal.

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