The world is celebrating the life of Dr. Paul Farmer, who spent his life working for justice in global health care
World-renowned infectious disease expert, humanitarian, and equitable global health advocate Dr. Paul Farmer just passed away.
According to an announcement from the organization he co-founded, Partners in Health, Farmer passed away in his sleep at 62 years old.
Starting with a clinic in Haiti, Dr. Farmer’s work became a network of healthcare facilities serving some of the world’s poorest communities. He was a champion and lifelong advocate for equity in global health, the responsibility of healthier, wealthier nations to care for those with less access to resources and organized health care systems.
Farmer started his first clinic in Haiti and his work helped shape global health initiatives
In 1982, Farmer started his first clinic in Cange, Haiti and grew it from one room into a hospital and nursing school serving a community of over 150,000 people.
He was the chair of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, and professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His writings on health and human rights and the connection between inequality and infectious diseases have shaped global health.
In the biography Mountains Beyond Mountains, author Tracy Kidder called him “the man who would cure the world.”
Farmer co-founded the global health and social justice organization, Partners in Health
Partners in Health is a global health and social justice organization responding to the “moral imperative to provide high-quality health care globally to those who need it most.”
Partners in Health, and Farmer himself, operated within the belief that injustices lead to poverty and sickness, and that health is a human right — and no human is less deserving of that right than another.
Partners in Health works in 12 countries, from Haiti and Rwanda to Malawi and Kazakhstan focusing on equitable care for maternal health, tuberculosis, HIV, Ebola, and some of the world’s most infectious diseases.
→ We've collected Paul Farmer's most wise and inspiring quotes about health, equality, and making a difference.
→ We've also collected the best quotes about global public health
Leaders around the world are paying their respects to Dr. Paul Farmer:
Over the course of his career, Farmer's work was hugely influential to a number of leading healthcare professionals, global leaders, activists, and people who care about making a difference in the world. We collected a number of quotes from those sharing their experiences with the late icon.
Fellow Healthcare Professionals
Announcing Farmer's death, Partners in Health's CEO Dr. Sheila Davis said, “Paul Farmer’s loss is devastating, but his vision for the world will live on through Partners in Health. Paul taught all those around him the power of accompaniment, love for one another, and solidarity. Our deepest sympathies are with his wife Didi and three children.”
Dr. Sriram Shamasunder, who was working alongside Farmer last week in rural Rwanda, described Farmer's deep empathy and care for patients over the course of decades.
"This past week an AIDS patient passed away and Paul was incredibly devastated.," Shamasunder shared in a tweet. "I remember thinking this is why he is Paul Farmer, after 40 years losing a patient was like losing the whole world."
Epidemiologist and health economist, Eric Feigl-Ding, shared: "I’m crying. Global health hero Paul Farmer has reportedly just died. As co founder of [Partners in Health], he dedicated his life to healing and helping the poor. What a loss for the world."
Dr. Céline Gounder, who works as the Editor-at-Large for Public Health for Kaiser Health News at the Kaiser Family Foundation, and as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, describes how Farmer's work on HIV/AIDS played a role in her understanding of Ebola and COVID-19 as an epidemiologist.
Dr. Louise Ivers, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital's Center for Global Health, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School described how Farmer's work impacted her work as an infectious diseases physician, and her life personally: "I can’t begin to count the ways in which knowing Dr. Paul Farmer changed my life. He was an inspiration, a transformative thinker, a friend, a health justice North Star, and a complex boss. He pushed us all to do better. He had not finished teaching."
Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda — a country in which Farmer spent a great deal of time, and expressed admiration for — paid his respects.
Samantha Power, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and current Administrator of USAID, shared what Farmer meant to her:
In a statement, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said, "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."
Activists, Nonprofit Leaders, Creatives, and Human Rights Defenders
Actor and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, Ben Stiller, took to Twitter to share his thoughts on Farmer. "What a huge, huge loss. Paul Farmer saved lives on a huge scale. He was selfless, brilliant, funny, sweet and compassionate. He created [Partners in Health], one of the most effective organizations ever combating disease world wide. My heart goes out to his friends and beautiful family."
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay shared a clip of an interview with Farmer, and shared how he saved many Black lives:
Internet creator and entrepreneur, Hank Green — whose community has raised millions of dollar for Partners in Health — expressed how he hopes his community can carry on his Farmer's legacy.
Nicholas Kristof, who worked with Farmer for years, expressed his admiration for his longtime friend:
Melinda French Gates, the cofounder of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which worked closely with Farmer, expressed her respect and appreciation for his work. "He believed in the sacredness contained in every single person, and his commitment to making the world better encouraged other people believe in it, too," she tweeted. "I will miss my dear friend, and continue to be inspired by him, every day."
A former Partners in Health employee said she once asked Paul Farmer what kept him in global health when so many people become disillusioned or burned out. His answer, she said, was: "Doing hard things with friends"
How to honor Paul Farmer’s life and continue his work
Paul Farmer founded Partners in Health, a nonprofit organization funded by donations. You can support their work to make equitable, high-quality health care accessible to people who need it most by making a monthly or one-time donation.
And help make sure more people know about Farmer’s life and legacy, and the good Partners in Health is doing in the world by sharing this article — or our post on Instagram.