Last night, I got back to my hotel room and quickly scrolled through my emails. One of the subject lines caught my eye, “A sad goodbye to Paul Farmer.” What, I thought . . . Dr. Paul Farmer? The physician and anthropologist who I have admired for nearly two decades. How could he be dead?
It turns out to be true. At only 62 years old, Farmer died in his sleep on Monday at his home in Rwanda. What a tragic loss.
Farmer was a true hero of global health. From his deep commitment to academic, evidence-based pursuits to his overwhelming devotion to underserved communities – Farmer was the modern-day architect of global health. He was also a hero for me.
I was a third-year resident and eagerly trying to build the momentum that would eventually become Health Bridges. A friend said they read a book they thought I would like. They said the book reminded them a lot of me. I must have read Tracey Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains three times before finally putting the book down. I was enthralled . . . and a bit envious. In Kidder’s book, I found a hero and mentor.
I never met Paul Farmer, although HBI has gone on to work with Partner’s in Health, the NGO he co-founded, in Perú on more than one occasion. Although we have moved beyond the delivery of direct healthcare services as the focus of our NGO, so much of Farmer’s work and methods have greatly influenced HBI.
The world lost a real champion for change yesterday – and many of us in global health lost a true hero. Thank you, Paul Farmer for your inspiration, integrity, and commitment. Rest in peace.