February 22, 2022

In Memoriam: Dr. Paul Farmer

In Memoriam,

It is with a heavy heart that we commemorate the passing of one of the most iconic global health leaders of our generation, Dr. Paul Farmer, the Kolokotrones University Professor and the chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the co-founder and chief strategist of Partners in Health. Paul was an extraordinary force for good in this world, always leading with humanism at the core of his tireless work to rectify the wrongs of social injustices that led to global health inequalities.

Paul was a friend of The Institute, coming to speak in both of our General Education courses offered to Harvard College students these past two years, and most recently, speaking on a panel titled, “Global Equity During Pandemics: Lessons from HIV and COVID for Designing a New Paradigm.” He joined this panel from Rwanda, where he took his last breath only a month later. In many ways, he gave his heart to Rwanda, much like he gave it to Haiti. Paul was a doctor, teacher, father, brother, husband, and son. He was also a humanitarian in the truest sense of the word.

When asked on our recent panel what are the most important lessons we have collectively learned from both the HIV and Covid pandemics, Paul spoke of the critical need to integrate prevention of illness with care of the sick, moving beyond individual fiefdoms within public health or medicine. Paul embodied the ability to bridge divides and come together across disciplines to advance our collective understanding of what global health should truly be – centered in our collective humanity and always striving for justice and equity for all.

We are grateful to Paul for sharing his light with the world. He will be sorely missed.

Allan Brandt, Ingrid Katz, and the HGHI Team

Image by courtesy of Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard University