Dr. Paul Farmer, who had a large impact by pioneering delivery of high quality health care to some of the world’s poorest people, died in Rwanda on Monday. Paul not only saved countless lives; he inspired a generation to contribute to providing high quality care to people with HIV-AIDS, TB, Ebola, and other diseases that disproportionately affect poor people around the globe. He also inspired a generation of scientists to contribute to improving diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of HIV and TB, sharing a commitment to health equity. Paul pioneered the concept that high quality care can be provided effectively to the world’s poorest people, as once described by Dr. Anthony Fauci: “…what Paul has done is completely destroy the misconception that you cannot deliver drugs or treat a serious disease in a rural health care setting because you will never be able to obtain and administer the drugs that are needed to be given to somebody on a daily basis.”. As stated by Dr. Ashish Jha, “He refused to accept the soft bigotry of low expectations.”.
The evidence provided by Paul’s success providing high quality treatment to people with TB and AIDS in Haiti contributed to the establishment of PEPFAR.
Paul founded Partners in Health, an organization that began with one clinic committed to providing treatment to people with AIDS and TB and grew to 16 medical centers including a teaching hospital in Haiti, and has built similar programs in Rwanda, Peru, Russia, and Lesotho.
Numerous people were shocked and profoundly saddened by Paul’s untimely sudden death, including Drs. Tony Fauci and Rochelle Walensky, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, among many others.
Several of us in the DEM knew Paul and his work, and their comments provide a sense of Paul’s work on a personal level. A compilation of their thoughts were put in a document that can be read by clicking here.
We are all inspired by Paul’s life and contributions and hope to carry on his principles and make the world a better, healthier, place to be a human being. As we do our work in combating global infectious diseases, let us not accept the soft bigotry of low expectations.