In Memoriam: Paul Farmer

On February 21, our friend and colleague Paul Farmer passed away at the age of 62. We mourn this tremendous loss and send our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Paul was a preeminent member of the public health world and many of us had the distinct honor of working with him and knowing him as a friend.  As Dean Williams noted, “he embodied the spirit that is public health, working tirelessly to promote human rights and human dignity.” Paul was the co-founder and chief strategist of Partners in Health, the global health and social justice organization focused on proving high-quality health care to those who need it most around the world.  In our Harvard community, Paul was the Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  Here in GHP many of our students and alumni will remember Paul’s commitment to the department, whether through guest lectures, serving on student oral and research committees, or opening Partners in Health to internship opportunities.  Anyone who was fortunate enough to work with Paul will forever remember his sense of loyalty to the communities he served, his kindness, and his empathy.

Paul’s achievements and dedication to improving lives of people everywhere, especially those who are most vulnerable, will continue to inspire the next generation of public health leaders.  Losing a public health visionary whom we were lucky enough to know and work with will undoubtedly only further renew our individual commitments to fight health inequities around the world, just as Paul would have wished. Noting all of Paul’s accomplishments would easily fill many pages. Instead of repeating here what many of Paul’s friends have so elegantly stated, we encourage you to take the time to read the touching announcements and tributes from Dean Williams, the Harvard Gazette, and the Boston Globe. While we are all heartbroken over this loss, we find comfort in the exceptional life Paul led, and the numerous lives he saved and improved around the globe.

As Paul once said, “I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I’m not going to stop because we keep losing…We want to be on the winning team, but at the risk of turning our backs on the losers, no, it’s not worth it. So you fight the long defeat.”

His legacy will live on and continue to inspire generations to fight the long defeat.