Paul Farmer

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Paul Farmer
Paul Farmer giving MacLean Prize Lecture in 2017.jpg
Farmer in 2017
Born (1959-10-26) October 26, 1959 (age 61)
Alma materDuke University (BA)
Harvard University (MD, PhD)
AwardsConrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize
MacArthur Genius Grant
Public Welfare Medal
Heinz Award in the Human Condition
Berggruen Prize
Scientific career
FieldsInternal Medicine
Infectious Disease
Medical Anthropology
InstitutionsHarvard University

Paul Edward Farmer (born October 26, 1959) is an American medical anthropologist and physician. Farmer holds an MD and PhD from Harvard University, where he is the Kolokotrones University Professor and the chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is co-founder and chief strategist of Partners In Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization that since 1987 has provided direct health care services and undertaken research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. He is professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Farmer and his colleagues in the U.S. and abroad have pioneered novel community-based treatment strategies that demonstrate the delivery of high-quality health care in resource-poor settings in the U.S. and abroad. Their work is documented in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, Clinical Infectious Diseases, British Medical Journal, and Social Science and Medicine.

Farmer has written extensively on health and human rights, the role of social inequalities in the distribution and outcome of infectious diseases, and global health.

He is known as "the man who would cure the world," as described in the book Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. The story of Partners In Health is also told in the 2017 documentary Bending the Arc. He is a proponent of liberation theology.[1][2]

Personal life and education[edit]

Farmer was born in North Adams, Massachusetts and raised in Weeki Wachee, Florida. His brother is former professional wrestler Jeff Farmer. He is a graduate of Hernando High School in Brooksville, Florida, where he was elected president of his senior class.[3] He attended Duke University as a Benjamin N. Duke Scholar,[4] graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in medical anthropology in 1982.[3][5] He attended Harvard University, earning an MD and a PhD in medical anthropology in 1990.[5] He completed an internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 1993 and an infectious disease fellowship in 1996.

Farmer is married to Didi Bertrand Farmer, a Haitian medical anthropologist and community health specialist who has led several initiatives at Partners in Health. Her most recent work focuses on empowering girls and young women in Haiti and Rwanda.[6] They have three children.[7]

International work[edit]

Farmer (right), 2013

In 1987, Farmer, along with Jim Yong Kim, Ophelia Dahl, Thomas J. White and Todd McCormack, co-founded Partners In Health. PIH began in Cange in the Central Plateau of Haiti and currently works in 12 sites across the country. Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais provides tertiary care to patients. Partners In Health also works in Rwanda, Lesotho, Malawi, Mexico, Peru, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Russia, and Navajo Nation. The University of Global Health Equity is an initiative of Partners In Health focused on delivering the highest quality of health care by addressing the critical social and systemic forces causing inequities and inefficiencies in health care delivery.

In 2003, the author Tracy Kidder wrote Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, which describes Farmer's work in Haiti, Peru, and Russia.

In May 2009, Farmer was named Chair of Harvard Medical School's Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, succeeding Jim Yong Kim, his longtime friend and colleague. On December 17, 2010, Harvard University's President, Drew Gilpin Faust, and the President and Fellows of Harvard College, named Farmer as a University Professor, the highest honor that the University can bestow on one of its faculty members.[8]

In August 2009, Farmer was named United Nations Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti (serving under former U.S. President Bill Clinton), in his capacity as Special Envoy.[9]

In December 2012, Farmer was appointed as the United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Community Based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti.[10]

Farmer is board certified in internal medicine and infectious disease.

Farmer is Editor-in-Chief of Health and Human Rights Journal. Farmer is on the board of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy; he is a co-founder and Board Member of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.[11] He is on the Board of PIVOT, a recently formed healthcare and research organization operating in Madagascar. He is a member of the Advisory Board of Incentives for Global Health, the NGO focused on developing the Health Impact Fund. He also serves on the Global Advisory Council of GlobeMed, a student-driven global health organization that works through a partnership model.[12] Farmer also serves on the Advisory Board of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, an international student-driven advocacy organization that works on issues of medicine development and affordability.[13] Farmer is a board member of Kageno Worldwide, Inc., a community development agency that has worked in Kenya and Rwanda. He is also on the Board of Trustees for EqualHealth, which builds critical consciousness towards health equity.[14]


  • Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History. Paul Farmer. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020. ISBN 978-0-374-23432-4 Farmer first visited the Western African Ebola virus epidemic site in July, 2014, and he devotes much of the book to his personal experiences. Reviewing the outbreak in 2020, he noted that there were almost no Ebola deaths in the U.S. or Europe. By Farmer's account, the West Africa Ebola death toll arose from the longstanding failure to invest in basic health infrastructure which resulted in a lack of proper medical care. Looking at the history of West Africa, Farmer blames the almost five centuries of European rule that resulted in the "rapacious extraction — of rubber latex, timber, minerals, gold, diamonds and human chattel" for the country's inability to provide adequate health care.[15]
  • AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992, 1993, 2006 edition: ISBN 978-0-520-08343-1
  • The Uses of Haiti, Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1994, 2003, 2005 edition: ISBN 978-1-56751-242-7
  • Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999, revised 2001 edition: ISBN 978-0-520-22913-6
  • Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003, 2005 edition: ISBN 978-0-520-24326-2
  • Global Health in Times of Violence, co-edited with Barbara Rylko-Bauer and Linda Whiteford, School for Advanced Research Press, 2009 edition: ISBN 978-1-934691-14-4
  • Women, Poverty & AIDS: Sex, Drugs and Structural Violence (Series in Health and Social Justice), with coauthor Margaret Connors, Common Courage Press; Reprint edition (September 1996), ISBN 978-1-56751-074-4
  • Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader. Ed. Haun Saussy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-520-25713-9
  • Haiti After the Earthquake, Ed. Abbey Gardner and Cassia van der Hoof Holstein. PublicAffairs, July 12, 2011, ISBN 978-1-58648-973-1
  • To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation. Ed. Jonathan Weigel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-520-27597-3
  • In the Company of the Poor: conversations between Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez. Ed. Michael Griffin and Jennie Weiss Block. Orbis Books, 2013: ISBN 978-1-62698-050-1
  • Reimagining Global Health. Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim, Arthur Kleinman, and Matthew Basilico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-520-27199-9

Awards and recognition[edit]

Farmer is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Bronislaw Malinowski Award and the Margaret Mead Award from the Society for Applied Anthropology, the Outstanding International Physician (Nathan Davis) Award from the American Medical Association, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and, with his Partners In Health colleagues, the Hilton Humanitarian Prize. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, from which he was awarded the 2018 Public Welfare Medal. In 2020, he was awarded the million-dollar Berggruen Prize.[16][17][18]



  1. ^ "Dr. Paul Farmer: How Liberation Theology Can Inform Public Health".
  2. ^ "The Liberation Theology of Dr. Paul Farmer | Religion & Politics". March 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Paul Farmer Biography and Interview - Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  4. ^ "Paul Farmer chosen as Duke's 2015 commencement speaker".
  5. ^ a b Paul Farmer, MD, PhD Archived October 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Harvard University Department of Global Health and Medicine. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
  6. ^ "Didi Bertrand helps girls become leaders". Every Child Thrives. January 8, 2020. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  7. ^ "Paul Farmer, M.D." Academy of Achievement. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  8. ^ Gil, Gideon (May 21, 2009). "Paul Farmer gets high-level Harvard Medical job". Retrieved June 2, 2009.
  9. ^ "Haiti: UN envoy Bill Clinton appoints prominent US doctor as deputy". August 11, 2009. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  10. ^ "Secretary-General Appoints Paul Farmer of United States Special Adviser for Community-based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti". UN Press Release. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  11. ^ [1] Archived April 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Who We Are". GlobeMed. Retrieved April 1, 2021.
  13. ^ "Advisory Board - Universities Allied for Essential Medicines".
  14. ^ "Board EqualHealth".
  15. ^ Johnson, Steven (November 17, 2020). "The Deadliness of the 2014 Ebola Outbreak Was Not Inevitable". The New York Times. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  16. ^ Carmel, Julia (December 16, 2020). "Paul Farmer Is Awarded the $1 Million Berggruen Prize". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  17. ^ "A Million Dollar Prize For A Doc Who Believes In 'Accompaniment'". Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  18. ^ Fox, Jeremy C. (December 16, 2020). "Dr. Paul Farmer, cofounder of Partners in Health, wins $1 million Berggruen Prize - The Boston Globe". Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  19. ^ "Class of 1993 MacArthur Fellows". MacArthur Foundation. July 1993. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  20. ^ "MacArthur Fellows: Meet the Class of 1993. Paul E. Farmer, Medical Anthropologist and Physician". MacArthur Foundation. July 1, 1993. Retrieved January 1, 2005.
  21. ^ "Margaret Mead Award 1999". Society for Applied Anthropology.
  22. ^ "Paul Farmer to receive National Academy of Sciences' most prestigious award". EurekAlert!. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  23. ^ "2005 Prize Event: Partners In Health". Hilton Humanitarian Prize. August 25, 2005. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  24. ^ "Rudolf Virchow Award". Rudolf Virchow Award.
  25. ^ "Union Medal". Union Theological Seminary.
  26. ^ "Princeton awards six honorary degrees". Princeton University.
  27. ^ "Paul Farmer to deliver graduation address". Emory University.
  28. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  29. ^ "2009 Summit Highlights Photo". Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of the medical charity Partners in Health, speaks on the opening night of the Summit.
  30. ^ "Columbia Announces 2009 Honorary Degree Recipients". Columbia University.
  31. ^ "2010 Honorary Degree Recipients". University of Pennsylvania.
  32. ^ "National - Jefferson Awards Foundation". Archived from the original on November 24, 2010. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  33. ^,49#thinker89 Archived December 31, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ University Of South Florida. "USF to Honor Humanitarian Paul Farmer". USF News. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  35. ^ "Paul Farmer to Speak at Graduation". Northwestern University.
  36. ^ "American University Announces Six Speakers for 2013 Commencement". American University.
  37. ^ "Sword of Loyola Recipient Paul Farmer". Chicago Tribune.
  38. ^ "Paul Farmer Accepts The Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award For Social Entrepreneurship". Forbes. June 3, 2015.
  39. ^ "Bronislaw Malinowski Award". Society for Applied Anthropology.
  40. ^ "Paul Farmer to Receive Public Welfare Medal – National Academy of Sciences' Most Prestigious Award". National Academy of Science. January 22, 2018.
  41. ^ "Election of New Members at the 2018 Spring Meeting". American Philosophical Society. April 28, 2018.
  42. ^ "McGill's Honorary Degree recipients for Spring Convocation 2019". McGill University.
  43. ^ "Paul Edward Farmer and Peter Gelb Awarded 2019 Gold Medals". The National Institute of Social Sciences.
  44. ^ SUSAN BRINK (December 16, 2020). "A Million Dollar Prize For A Doc Who Believes In 'Accompaniment'". NPR.

External links[edit]