The Sewanee Community was saddened to learn of the death of Paul Farmer, a physician, anthropologist, and co-founder of Partners in Health, an international social justice and health organization.

Honorary Degree Citation read at Winter Convocation, February 2017

A medical anthropologist and physician, Dr. Paul Farmer is a founding director of Partners In Health, an international organization that provides health care services and undertakes research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. Dr. Farmer is a pioneer in community-based treatment strategies for AIDS and tuberculosis.

Many in our community discovered Dr. Farmer as the subject of Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. The Pulitzer Prize winning volume was required reading for an unprecedented four classes of Sewanee first-year students, the only book ever assigned to multiple classes. Dr. Farmer’s story inspired us, leading us to reflect on our own privilege and to consider the proposition that healthcare is a basic human right, a proposition appropriately considered in an academic setting

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Please share your memories and recollections of Paul and his work. We will post your stories on this page.

Jim Peterman, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Civic Engagement

Paul Farmer: Our Friend

One defining feature of Sewanee—I use the informal name on purpose—is how interpersonal networks, not connected to formal programs, spring up and define signature aspirations through overlapping interests and projects. These networks get associated with names of people, places, and traditions. By not being connected to formal programs, these names attach to open-ended personal visions and goals, with enough overlap to give the network an understandable identity and shape. In some cases, the network is never publicly acknowledged. It’s just there, and folks recognize themselves, along with others, as tacit fellow-travelers. Sometimes these loose groups get named. If this naming of this network has not yet happened, I will do that now—"The Paul Farmers."

Amy Patterson, Professor and Chair of the Department of Politics

I was fortunate to interview Dr. Farmer in 2006 when I was working on my first book, The Politics of AIDS in Africa. He graciously and patiently answered my long list of questions about World Bank, US government, and Global Fund efforts on AIDS. His insights helped me better understand how these donor programs often had fallen short, and his commitment to AIDS treatment for all was a theme throughout our conversation. Unlike many of the other respondents I had interviewed, he had a vision for what health as a human right really meant. It wasn't about the logistics of programming or budget considerations, but about helping people live longer, better lives. I was inspired and energized. Since that first encounter with Dr. Farmer, I have assigned his book Pathologies of Power and some of his articles on the West African Ebola outbreak in several courses. In doing so, I want students to understand the complex social determinants of health. But I also want them to think as Dr. Farmer did: not about the obstacles in global health and development, but about what should (and can) be done. Dr. Farmer's energy, kindness, and advocacy inspire us all to work for a more just world.

Luke Alderson, Community Member

My fellow students and I were given the honor and pleasure of meeting Dr. Farmer almost exactly a year ago, when he spoke to us over zoom at an event my organization was hosting. We learned about his and PIH's story, and the amazing work that him and his colleagues were accomplishing. It was of the defining moments of my time at Sewanee, and in my journey to medicine, when he encouraged us to continue to learn and serve, and I'm glad to have met him in his truly meaningful time on Earth.

Robert MacSwain, Professor - The School of Theology

I never had the privilege of meeting Paul Farmer in person, but I first encountered him in an essay by Vanessa Carbonell titled, "What Moral Saints Look Like," *Canadian Journal of Philosophy* 39 (2009): 371–98. I read this article as part of my ongoing research into radical altruism and moral sainthood as evidence for God, and was thus delighted that Sewanee honored him back in 2017. Moral saints like Dr. Farmer don't just live differently than most of us, they have a transformative effect on those who meet or even just hear about them, causing us to revaluate our priorities and commitments. He will thus be mentioned in my forthcoming book on this topic. While I am very sad about his sudden and premature death, his remarkable work and influence will long outlive him.

Want to know more about Paul Farmer's life and legacy?