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GlobeMed Remembers Dr. Paul Farmer

All of us at GlobeMed are grieving the loss of Dr. Paul Farmer, a world-renowned doctor, co-founder of Partners In Health (PIH), author, friend, and mentor to many. His work had a deep, long-lasting impact on the philosophy and direction of the global health space, and GlobeMed is no exception.

Paul Farmer stands between two GlobeMed students. He is wearing a long-sleeve, light blue button up shirt with a stethoscope slung around his neck. To the left is a student who is taller than Paul, has some scruffy facial hair, and is wearing a short-sleeve, gray button up. To the right is a student who is shorter than Paul and is wearing a blue patterned top with a square neckline. They are all smiling at the camera, with a rural landscape in the background.

In 2006, as GlobeMed was being founded, he was articulating ideas around global health equity and partnership that were enormously influential to GlobeMed’s founding team. As GlobeMed’s founders sought to build an organization dedicated to sustainable global health work, Dr. Farmer’s writings and PIH’s partnership model provided both an operational and moral compass to GlobeMed, without which we would not be here today.

“I learned about Dr. Paul Farmer and the work of PIH at a time I was at odds and frustrated with the way that global health was being approached,” says Dr. Tana Chongsuwat, GlobeMed Board Member and alumna of GlobeMed at Loyola University, says. “Particularly as a future physician, Dr. Paul Farmer was the inspiration that I needed to envision my role in global health and what it means to make sustainable, systems-level impact to promote health equity.”

Dr. Farmer’s work has influenced over 15 years of GlobeMed students. He has been a close advisor and counselor to GlobeMed alumni. “His thinking on structural violence and the systems drivers of health greatly contributed to my decision to switch from seeking a career in medicine to one in public health,” Mia Lei, alumna of GlobeMed at UNC Chapel Hill, says. “And since adopting his celebration of ‘accompaniment,’ my professional work and my personal relationships have been radically transformed for the better — both are more meaningful, powerful, and impactful.”

In addition to mentoring GlobeMed students and alumni, Dr. Farmer also took the time to speak at our 2010 Global Health Summit, the yearly gathering of students across the GlobeMed network. A key piece of Dr. Farmer’s vision was his belief in the power of young people — to create important, positive change not just in the future, but right now. “We are mourning the loss of a giant in the global health equity movement. Dr. Paul Farmer inspired thousands of students to get involved — to understand and deconstruct the barriers to good health and take bold action in solidarity with those most affected by systemic injustice. His writings and teachings fueled our purpose, and his genuine belief in humanity made us feel like everything we envisioned for the world was possible,” Priya Fremerman, GlobeMed’s Executive Director, says.

“Dr. Paul Farmer has greatly inspired me and shaped my perspective,” Blaise Mugeneka, a current student at GlobeMed at the University of Rwanda in Kigali, says. “Before I knew him, I used to know his great works in Rwanda through Partners In Health [. . .] From him, I do understand what health equity and justice is and what it might take to achieve them, and I am passionate to advocate for it.”

Dr. Farmer’s impact across time and all the people he touched with his work is impossible to fully encapsulate here. We take seriously the duty to honor his legacy by continuing to fight for health equity and foster student leadership and learning around the globe.

“He mentored us from near and far and gave us a roadmap for what the world needs — now more than ever.”

“Paul Farmer — his writing, his work with Partners in Health, and most of all his humanity — lit the flame that made GlobeMed possible,” Victor Roy, GlobeMed Founding Member and former Executive Director, says. “Countless students — whom he liked to call his ‘retirement plan’ — found their purpose in the values and pragmatic work of partnership, solidarity, and social justice that Paul inspired and modeled. I am one of them. He mentored us from near and far and gave us a roadmap for what the world needs — now more than ever. May we take that charge in this time of deep ache and honor his legacy by continuing this work together.”

As people share their stories about Dr. Farmer in the aftermath of his passing, PIH is collecting these stories under #Paul’sPromise. To read further reflections from health equity organizations and professionals about Dr. Farmer’s legacy, check out the #Paul’sPromise campaign.

Additionally, if you’d like to learn more about the work and writings of Dr. Farmer, here are some of our favorites of his essays, talks, and other resources:

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GlobeMed

A network of students and communities around the world working together to improve health equity.