Famend infectious illness specialist, humanitarian, and healthcare champion for most of the world’s most weak affected person populations, Paul Edward Farmer, MD, died instantly in his sleep from an acute cardiac occasion on February 21 in Rwanda, the place he had been instructing. He was 62.
Farmer cofounded the Boston-based world nonprofit Companions In Well being and spent many years offering healthcare to impoverished communities worldwide, combating on the frontline to guard underserved communities in opposition to lethal pandemics.
Farmer was the Kolokotrones College Professor and chair of the Division of World Well being and Social Drugs within the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical Faculty (HMS) in Boston, Massachusetts. He served as chief of the Division of World Well being Fairness at Brigham and Girls’s Hospital in Boston.
“Paul devoted his life to enhancing human well being and advocating for well being fairness and social justice on a worldwide scale,” stated HMS Dean George Q. Daley in a letter to the HMS group. “I’m notably shaken by his passing as a result of he was not solely a consummate colleague and a beloved mentor, however a detailed buddy. To me, Paul represented the guts and soul of Harvard Medical Faculty.”
He was additionally chancellor and cofounder of the College of World Well being Fairness in Rwanda. Earlier than his loss of life, he spent a number of weeks instructing on the college.
“Paul Farmer’s loss is devastating, however his imaginative and prescient for the world will reside on by Companions In Well being,” stated Companions In Well being CEO Sheila Davis in an announcement. “Paul taught all these round him the facility of accompaniment, love for each other, and solidarity. Our deepest sympathies are along with his household.”
Farmer was born in North Adams, Massachusetts, and grew up in Florida along with his dad and mom and 5 siblings. He attended Duke College on a Benjamin N. Duke Scholarship and obtained his medical diploma in 1988, adopted by his PhD in 1990 from Harvard College.
His humanitarian work started when he was a university pupil volunteering in Haiti in 1983 working with dispossessed farmers. In 1987, he cofounded Companions In Well being with the objective of serving to sufferers in poverty-stricken corners of the world.
Below Farmer’s management, the nonprofit tackled main public well being crises: Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, drug-resistant tuberculosis in Peru and different nations, and an Ebola outbreak that tore by West Africa.
Farmer documented his 2014-2015 expertise treating Africa’s Ebola sufferers in a ebook known as Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of Historical past.
He wrote that by the point he arrived, “western Sierra Leone was floor zero of the epidemic, and Higher West Africa was simply concerning the worst place on the planet to be critically unwell or injured.”
One among his biggest qualities was his potential to attach with sufferers — to deal with them “not like ones who suffered, however like a pal you’d joke with,” stated Pardis Sabeti, MD, PhD, a Harvard College geneticist who additionally frolicked in Africa and famously sequenced samples of the Ebola virus’ genome.
Sabeti and Farmer bonded over their love for Sierra Leone, and their grief over dropping a detailed colleague to Ebola, Sheik Humarr Khan, who was one of many space’s main infectious illness consultants.
Sabeti first met Farmer years earlier as a first-year Harvard medical pupil when she enrolled in considered one of his programs. She stated college students launched themselves, one after the other, every veering into heartfelt testimonies about what Farmer’s work had meant to them.
Farmer and Sabeti have been simply texting on Saturday, and the 2 have been “goofing round in our normal manner, and scheming about learn how to make the world higher, as we at all times did.”
Farmer was humorous, mischievous, and above all, precisely what you’ll anticipate upon assembly him, Sabeti stated.
“It is cliché, however the energetic kick you get from simply being in his presence, it is virtually otherworldly,” she stated. “It is not even otherworldly within the sense of, ‘I simply got here throughout — greatness.’ It is extra, ‘I simply got here throughout kindness.'”
Farmer’s work has been broadly distributed in publications together with Bulletin of the World Well being Group, The Lancet, the New England Journal of Drugs, Scientific Infectious Illnesses, and Social Science & Drugs.
He was awarded the 2020 Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Tradition, the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Affiliation, the American Medical Affiliation’s Excellent Worldwide Doctor (Nathan Davis) Award, and, along with his Companions In Well being colleagues, the Hilton Humanitarian Prize.
He’s survived by his spouse, Didi Bertrand Farmer, and their three kids.
For extra information, comply with Medscape on Fb, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.