Dr. Paul Farmer, whose work has served the poor worldwide, is keynote speaker for Fairfield University Fall Convocation

Dr. Paul Farmer, whose work has served the poor worldwide, is keynote speaker for Fairfield University Fall Convocation

Dr. Paul Farmer, who has dedicated his life to providing medical care for the poor of Haiti and other destitute populations around the world, will be the speaker at Fairfield University's convocation on Friday, Sept. 8 at 3:30 p.m. on the lawn of Bellarmine Hall. In case of rain, the event will be moved to Alumni Hall.

Dr. Farmer's continued work in Haiti and his fight for social justice through his Boston-based foundation, Partners in Health, are the subject of author Tracy Kidder's book, Mountains Beyond Mountains . The book was given to all incoming freshmen during Orientation.

Dr. Farmer began his work in Haiti in the early 1980s, while a Harvard medical student. He arranged to continue his medical studies while working among the poor in Haiti, showing up in Cambridge for exams and lab practicums only. With his background in anthropology, he was interested in the way cultural mores affect health, but what he found was that politics, economic inequality, and crushing poverty have led to a non-existent state of healthcare for most Haitians.

Over the next 25 years, Dr. Farmer and his colleagues successfully challenged critics who claim that quality health care is impossible to deliver in resource-poor settings. Both the community-based model of HIV prevention and treatment developed by Dr. Farmer, and the protocol for drug-resistant tuberculosis he and his colleagues pioneered, are now being used in other poor settings around the world.

"We are thrilled that Dr. Farmer has agreed to speak to the Fairfield University community," said Dr. Debnam Chappell, dean of freshmen. "Dr. Farmer's life and work truly exemplify the Jesuit ideal of men and women for others, as well as the importance of social justice."

Dr. Winston Tellis, the Camille and Stephen Schramm Professor of Information in the Dolan School of Business, has been honored for his service to FONKOZE, a Haitian micro-lending bank that Dr. Farmer's Partners in Health teamed up with to provide branches at all of its clinics. A Christian Science Monitor article published last September pointed out that Dr. Farmer discovered early on that Haitians needed more than the healthcare he wanted to provide. "They needed personal bank accounts, for one thing. They needed concrete floors, tin roofs, safe drinking water, and schools."

An anthropologist as well as a physician, Dr. Farmer addresses his patients' cultural beliefs as well as their medical needs, and he has been a vocal opponent of the political and economic forces that mire millions of people in deprivation, poor health, illiteracy, and hunger. He has authored or co-authored hundreds of scholarly publications, and received numerous medical and humanitarian awards, including a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association, and the Heinz Award for the Human Condition.

Last year Partners in Health was awarded the annual humanitarian $1.5 million Hilton Prize, which was especially meaningful to Dr. Farmer because it was a team prize.

Dr. Farmer received his Bachelor's degree in 1982 from Duke University, and his M.D. and Ph.D. (in Anthropology) simultaneously in 1990 from Harvard University.

Posted On: 09-06-2006 10:09 AM

Volume: 39 Number: 24