The Sower

We need more farmers. Not industrial farmers, family farmers, or even subsistence, organic farmers (although we could do with more of the latter). We need more versions of Paul Farmer, the forty-six-year-old Harvard physician/anthropologist profiled by Tracy Kidder in his book Mountains beyond Mountains (see Commonweal, “The Good Doctor,” February 11). Farmer was recently named a “champion of the poor” by Time magazine (November 7) for his work with the indigent, chronically ill, and dying, not only in the United States, but in Haiti, Russia, and Africa. Farmer grew up poor himself, in the southern United States. As an undergraduate at Duke University he discovered liberation theology and a broader understanding of his own Catholicism. Partly as a result, in 1987 he established Partners in Health (PIH), a nonprofit, Boston-based charity that attempts to meet the public-health needs of those who live in blighted or dysfunctional settings, including Russia’s prisons. Farmer seems to have a three-pronged agenda: to alleviate the suffering of the poor and really change their lives, you’ve got to deal with people, programs, and public policy simultaneously. Farmer touched on each during a recent panel discussion on the eradication of malaria and tuberculosis. The panel was part of Time’s Global Health Summit, held in New York from November 1 to 3. Hundreds of experts-representatives from government, finance, business, science, journalism, and health...

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About the Author

Patrick Jordan is a former managing editor of Commonweal.