Dr. Paul Farmer, global humanitarian leader, dies at 62

Feb 21, 2022, 1:57 PM | Updated: Feb 23, 2022, 1:06 am
In this picture taken Jan. 10, 2012, Partners in Health's co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, gestures dur...

In this picture taken Jan. 10, 2012, Partners in Health's co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, gestures during the inauguration of national referral and teaching hospital in Mirebalais, 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Dr. Paul Farmer, a physician, humanitarian and author renowned for providing health care to millions of impoverished people, has died. He was 62. Farmer co-founded the global nonprofit Partners in Health, which confirmed his death Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery, file)

(AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery, file)

BOSTON (AP) — Dr. Paul Farmer, a U.S. physician, humanitarian and author renowned for providing health care to millions of impoverished people worldwide and who co-founded the global nonprofit Partners in Health, has died. He was 62.

The Boston-based organization confirmed Farmer’s death on Monday, calling it “devastating” and noting he unexpectedly passed away in his sleep from an acute cardiac event while in Rwanda, where he had been teaching.

Farmer was a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the division of global health equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He wrote extensively on health, human rights and social inequality, according to Partners in Health.

“A compassionate physician and infectious disease specialist, a brilliant and influential medical anthropologist, and among the greatest humanitarians of our time — perhaps all time — Paul dedicated his life to improving human health and advocating for health equity and social justice on a global scale,” wrote George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard University’s Faculty of Medicine, in a statement.

Partners in Health, founded in 1987, said its mission is “to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care.” The organization began its work in Cange, a rural village in Haiti’s central plateau, and later expanded its operations to regions including Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, who wrote the nonfiction book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World,” told The Associated Press the two traveled together for a month as Farmer treated prisoners and impoverished people in Haiti, Moscow and Paris.

“He was an important figure in the world,” Kidder said. “He had a way of looking around corners and of connecting things. He couldn’t obviously go and cure the whole world all by himself, but he could, with help of his friends, give proof of possibility.”

One of Kidder’s strongest memories of Farmer occurred in Peru, where the doctor was treating patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Kidder recalled a woman wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt who followed them to their car, looking very shy.

With her head down, she said, “Thank you,” to Farmer in Spanish. Kidder recalled: “Paul turned, took each of her hands in his and said, ‘For me, it is a privilege,’ in Spanish.”

He added that Farmer was instrumental in getting AIDS treatments, and created various health systems around the world.

“It really humiliates the nay-sayers, who think it’s somehow OK for some people to get health care and others not,” Kidder said. “It just drove him nuts.”

Michelle Karshan, vice president of a nonprofit prison health care system in Haiti who worked closely with Farmer, said he was determined, innovative and always knew how to get around obstacles and bureaucracy.

“He didn’t take no for an answer,” she said. “He didn’t think anybody was too poor or too illiterate to be entitled to receive health care.”

She noted that when the World Health Organization resisted giving HIV medication to people who were illiterate in Haiti for fear they would not know when or how to take it, Farmer set up his own program and created a chart that relied on the sun’s position. He also hired people known as “accompaniers,” who would hike through Haiti’s rough mountainous terrain to make sure patients had water, food and were taking their medications.

“I’m so sad for all the people who are not going to have him in their lives. He was there for everybody,” Karshan said.

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry praised Farmer’s work, as did former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

“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,” Clinton said in a statement.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with thousands of cases reported daily in Massachusetts, local health departments were overwhelmed by the task of contact tracing to help slow the spread of the disease.

The state launched a contact tracing collaborative in April 2020, and asked Partners in Health to lead the initiative, which made more than 2.7 million calls to residents at a total cost of about $158 million, according to the state.

Farmer is survived by his Haitian wife, Didi Bertrand Farmer, and their three children.

___

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Visitors tour past military vehicles carrying the Dong Feng 41 and DF-17 ballistic missiles at an e...
Associated Press

China blasts US report, reiterates ‘no 1st use’ nuke policy

BEIJING (AP) — China strictly adheres to its policy of no first use of nuclear weapons “at any time and under any circumstances,” its Defense Ministry said Tuesday in a scathing response to a U.S. report alleging a major buildup in Beijing’s nuclear capabilities. The Pentagon last week released an annual China security report that […]
3 hours ago
Associated Press

EU ministers mull whether to punish Hungary over rule of law

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union finance ministers were assessing on Tuesday whether to immediately punish Hungary by withholding billions of euros for failures to implement solid rule-of-law reforms or whether to grant Budapest more time to improve its democratic credentials. On top of that, the 27 ministers were also hoping to make progress on approving […]
3 hours ago
FILE - EPA Administrator Michael Regan stands near the Marathon Petroleum Refinery as he conducts a...
Associated Press

EPA head visits WVa city that had 10-year water advisory

The head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled Tuesday to visit a West Virginia county where some residents recently got access to clean water after years of having to boil it before drinking because of persistent infrastructure issues. EPA Administrator Michael Regan will speak with community members in McDowell County about drinking water […]
3 hours ago
A municipal worker sweeps the pavement as a red carpet is installed outside the venue of the EU Wes...
Associated Press

EU, Western Balkans to boost partnership amid Ukraine war

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — EU leaders and their Western Balkan counterparts gathered Tuesday for talks aimed at boosting their partnership as Russia’s war in Ukraine threatens to reshape the geopolitical balance in the region. The EU wants to use the one-day summit in Albania’s capital to tell leaders from Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia […]
3 hours ago
A currency trader passes by screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), left, an...
Associated Press

Asian shares lower as strong data hit hopes for dovish Fed

BANGKOK (AP) — Stocks were mostly lower in Asia on Tuesday after Wall Street pulled back as surprisingly strong economic reports highlighted the difficulty of the Federal Reserve’s fight against inflation. Tokyo rose, Shanghai was flat and other regional markets declined. U.S. futures gained and oil prices also advanced. Adding to worries over the potential […]
3 hours ago
Associated Press

Memphis police officer injured, suspect killed in shooting

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Memphis police officer was shot and a suspect was killed Monday evening, according to the Memphis Police Department. The department said in a tweet that the officer was struck multiple times at 9:15 p.m. in the neighborhood of Oakhaven, just north of the Tennessee-Mississippi border. The officer was transported to […]
3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Dr. Paul Farmer, global humanitarian leader, dies at 62