Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader

Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader

Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader

Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader


For nearly thirty years, anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer has traveled to some of the most impoverished places on earth to bring comfort and the best possible medical care to the poorest of the poor. Driven by his stated intent to "make human rights substantial," Farmer has treated patients--and worked to address the root causes of their disease--in Haiti, Boston, Peru, Rwanda, and elsewhere in the developing world. In 1987, with several colleagues, he founded Partners In Health to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. Throughout his career, Farmer has written eloquently and extensively on these efforts. Partner to the Poor collects his writings from 1988 to 2009 on anthropology, epidemiology, health care for the global poor, and international public health policy, providing a broad overview of his work. It illuminates the depth and impact of Farmer's contributions and demonstrates how, over time, this unassuming and dedicated doctor has fundamentally changed the way we think about health, international aid, and social justice.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to Partners In Health.


Tracy Kidder

A few years back I wrote a book called Mountains Beyond Mountains. It has a subtitle: “The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.” I don’t much like subtitles and I didn’t add this one willingly, but I suppose it’s accurate enough. My book is mostly about one person, Paul Farmer, and, as we all know, the old saw that one person can make a difference in this world really isn’t the whole truth. Paul Farmer never wanted me to imagine that he alone was responsible for the early work of Partners In Health. In fact, I think that if he’d been the writer, he would have given equal time to all the people involved in the early days—to Tom White, and Jim Yong Kim, and Fritz Lafontant, and Ophelia Dahl, and Loune Viaud, and Todd McCormack, and Haun Saussy, and the rest of a cast of at least dozens. But I have to add that I couldn’t have written a book like that, and I’m glad I didn’t try.

I traveled quite a lot with Paul Farmer, and some of those trips were, collectively, like a harrowing of hell for me—to the famished, deforested Central Plateau of Haiti; to a periurban slum outside Lima, Peru, which, as the residents say, looks like the surface of the moon; to Moscow’s Central Prison, where what the doctors described as an “uncrowded cell” contained fifty patients coughing up drug-resistant TB bacilli. In those places, particularly, Paul Farmer showed me more reasons for despair than I’ve ever seen before, or indeed imagined. And yet it was the most exhilarating experience of my life. PIH was still pretty small then, back in 2000, and yet they were creating vivid proof that diseases which could be treated successfully in the developed world could also be treated successfully and economically in some of the poorest, most difficult settings imaginable. That was the moving thing for me. Seeing the proof.

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