Paul Farmer: A (Deserving) Nonprofit Celebrity

February 20, 2004

Paul Farmer is an amazing member of the "nonprofit community," famous in his own circles of public health and international development. The Stanford Social Innovation Review, (an excellent magazine) has a lovely extended interview with him about his work and his perspective. If you have not read about his work, this is a good introduction.

What makes his vision so wonderful, I think, is his ability to keep the big picture right in front of him. He does not let his job come in the way of his purpose. As a public health practicioner, he says this means 2 things: 1.) Remaining a practitioner (and not becoming a more profitable, detached, consultant. ) and 2.) "doing what it takes" to make sure that health needs are being met in communities in need. For him this mean the "controversial" practice of monitoring patient's perscription drug use. By being more in the post-treatment phase of his patients lives, he has forced himself into a nontraditional role that works. The article touches briefly on this point, but it is captured much better in his book "Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor." If you have any interest in international health and development, this is a great read.

Here's a bit from the Stanford article:

In 1987, physician and anthropologist Paul Farmer founded Partners in Health to treat tuberculosis and other infectious diseases among Haiti's rural poor. Since that time, his organization has expanded to care and advocate for the world's poorest and sickest, in sites as diverse as Siberian prisons, Peruvian shantytowns, and Boston's inner-city neighborhoods. The organization has also clarified its broader goal: to address the inequity and injustice that underlie much of human suffering.

Read the Stanford Social Review interview with Paul Farmer: SSIR: Articles