Today, in light of the tragic loss of Dr. Paul Farmer, we’re looking back on his most prolific quotes from his years as a humanitarian and a leader in global health.

Farmer was described as “the man who would cure the world” in the book Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. He co-founded Partners in Health, and was a leader on issues of social inequalities, world hunger, global health, and human rights.

Farmer's work significantly influenced the work of many difference makers — and our work at Good Good Good. We're grateful for his impactful work and the legacy of impact he leaves behind.

Famous quotes from Dr. Paul Farmer:

On making a difference

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
— Paul Farmer

The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. — Paul Farmer

“If I am hungry, that is a material problem; if someone else is hungry, that is a spiritual problem.”
— Paul Farmer, In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez

“If I am hungry, that is a material problem; if someone else is hungry, that is a spiritual problem.” — Paul Farmer

“With rare exceptions, all of your most important achievements on this planet will come from working with others—or, in a word, partnership.”
— Paul Farmer, To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation

“With rare exceptions, all of your most important achievements on this planet will come from working with others—or, in a word, partnership.” — Paul Farmer quotes

“For me, an area of moral clarity is: you're in front of someone who's suffering and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it, and you act.”
— Paul Farmer

“For me, an area of moral clarity is: you're in front of someone who's suffering and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it, and you act.” — Paul Farmer

“I feel it's part of my job to make the problems of the poor compelling.”
— Paul Farmer

“That's when I feel most alive, when I'm helping people.”
— Paul Farmer

“That's when I feel most alive, when I'm helping people.” — Paul Farmer quotes

Related: The best quotes about hunger and feeding the poor


On justice, equity, and power

“Equity is the only acceptable goal.”
— Paul Farmer

“Equity is the only acceptable goal.” — Paul Farmer

“There is nothing wrong with underlining personal agency, but there is something unfair about using personal responsibility as a basis for assigning blame while simultaneously denying those who are being blamed the opportunity to exert agency in their lives”
— Paul Farmer

“A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.”
— Paul Farmer

“A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.” — Paul Farmer

“There is an enormous difference between seeing people as the victims of innate shortcomings and seeing them as the victims of structural violence. Indeed, it is likely that the struggle for rights is undermined whenever the history of unequal chances, and of oppression, is erased or distorted.”
— Paul Farmer, Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor

“In this increasingly interconnected world, we must understand that what happens to poor people is never divorced from the actions of the powerful. Certainly, people who define themselves as poor may control their own destinies to some extent. But control of lives is related to control of land, systems of production, and the formal political and legal structures in which lives are enmeshed. With time, both wealth and control have become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. The opposite trend is desired by those working for social justice.”
— Paul Farmer, Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor

In this increasingly interconnected world, we must understand that what happens to poor people is never divorced from the actions of the powerful — Paul Farmer quote


On medicine and global health

“We've taken on the major health problems of the poorest — tuberculosis, maternal mortality, AIDS, malaria — in four countries. We've scored some victories in the sense that we've cured or treated thousands and changed the discourse about what is possible.”
— Paul Farmer

“But if you're asking my opinion, I would argue that a social justice approach should be central to medicine and utilized to be central to public health. This could be very simple: the well should take care of the sick.”
— Paul Farmer

Quote graphic: the well should take care of the sick. — Paul Farmer

“In fact, it seems to me that making strategic alliances across national borders in order to treat HIV among the world's poor is one of the last great hopes of solidarity across a widening divide.”
— Paul Farmer


On faith

“God gives us humans everything we need to flourish, but he's not the one who's supposed to divvy up the loot. You want to see where Christ crucified abides today? Go to where the poor are suffering and fighting back, and that's where He is.”
— Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer Quote: “God gives us humans everything we need to flourish, but he's not the one who's supposed to divvy up the loot. You want to see where Christ crucified abides today? Go to where the poor are suffering and fighting back, and that's where He is.” — Paul Farmer

“People call me a saint and I think, I have to work harder. Because a saint would be a great thing to be.”
— Paul Farmer

“The basis of our preferential option for the poor to say: I accompany them not because they are all good, or because I am all good, but because God is good.”
— Paul Farmer


On healthcare as a human right

“If access to health care is considered a human right, who is considered human enough to have that right?”
— Paul Farmer

“Human rights violations are not accidents; they are not random in distribution or effect. Rights violations are, rather, symptoms of deeper pathologies of power and are linked intimately to the social conditions that so often determine who will suffer abuse and who will be shielded from harm”
— Paul Farmer, Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor

“Human rights violations are not accidents; they are not random in distribution or effect. Rights violations are, rather, symptoms of deeper pathologies of power and are linked intimately to the social conditions that so often determine who will suffer abuse and who will be shielded from harm” — Paul Farmer

“The essence of global health equity is the idea that something so precious as health might be viewed as a right.”
— Paul Farmer