Paul E. Farmer (right) receiving his
honorary degree, May 22, 2005.
Photo by Robert Tobey
2005 Honorary Degree Recipients
Paul E. Farmer
Doctor of Science
Physician and medical anthropologist Paul E. Farmer is a leading authority on infectious diseases, particularly renowned for his work on tuberculosis treatment and control. He is chief of the Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he also serves as an attending physician. But to understand his work, he has said, you have to go to Haiti.
Farmer spends four months of the year in Haiti, where he is medical director of the Clinique Bon Sauveur, a charity hospital that treats some of the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere. Through his simultaneous work in Boston and in Haiti, Farmer has seen first-hand the not only the effects of disease, but also society’s unwillingness to acknowledge those individuals and communities that are disproportionately affected by illness. And so he has dedicated his career to confronting these challenges on two fronts—by working with colleagues to develop new strategies for treating disease, and by challenging society to confront and change the economic and social structures that lead to inequities in illness and in treatment.
In 1993 Farmer received a MacArthur “genius” grant in recognition of his work; he used the entire amount of the award to found Partners In Health, an international charity organization that provides direct health care services and undertakes research and advocacy on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. Tracy Kidder brought Farmer’s work to the attention of an even broader audience when he profiled “Dokte Paul” in his 2003 book, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World.
Farmer has said that “As members of the world community, we must recognize that we can and should summon our collective resources to save the countless lives that were previously alleged to be beyond our help.” For his efforts, he has been honored with a number of awards, including the Duke University Humanitarian Award, the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association, and the American Medical Association’s International Physician (Nathan Davis) Award.