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Paul Farmer Named University Professor

By Caroline M. McKay, Crimson Staff Writer

Professor Paul E. Farmer was named the Kolokotrones University Professor yesterday, joining 22 other professors who hold the highest faculty rank.

Professor of Anthropology Arthur Kleinman, who advised Farmer while he was earning his Ph.D., said that Farmer was the “icon of global health,” and that his success is rooted in a combination of high quality academic work, a deep commitment to his projects, an inspirational approach to teaching, and a passion for hands-on work.

“He is an extraordinary professor who combines enormous talents, great energy, and a tremendous commitment both to education and to service,” Kleinman said.

Arachu Castro, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who works in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine under Farmer, said that she gave Farmer—who was “very excited” about the announcement—a hug when she heard the news.

“I think he does fantastic work,” Castro said. “I was very pleased when I heard the news, but at the same time I’m not surprised because he is so well-deserving of the [honor.]”

Divya Seth ’14 and Lily H. Ostrer ’14, both student in Farmer’s “Health, Culture, and Community: Case Studies in Global Health” class, said that they have looked up to Farmer ever since reading “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer,” a 2004 non-fiction account of Farmer’s humanitarian efforts, in high school. Seth said that Farmer’s lectures were special because he combined “a touch of humor, an ability to connect, and [a desire to] reach out to students in the class.”

Farmer received a B.A. from Duke before earning both his Ph.D. in Anthropology and his MD from Harvard in 1990. He is chairman of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and serves as the chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He has established treatment programs for infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS in poor countries across the world, and he has written multiple books about HIV/AIDS, global health, and countries in which he has worked.

In 1987, Farmer co-founded Partners In Health, an NGO based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, that strengthens health care systems in impoverished nations by partnering with the country’s government, with the goal of achieving long-term solutions to health problems. He has worked to build health clinics, train native peoples to work in the clinics, and develop health systems in countries such as Haiti, Rwanda, Peru, and Russia.

Seth said she admires Farmer because he “never put limits on [his dream],” by not limiting Partners In Health to Haiti, but extending the organization to help a dozen countries.

“He is changing the social aspect of medicine while addressing biological needs,” Seth said.

University President Drew G. Faust commended Farmer for his excellence in multiple areas when announcing the appointment yesterday.

“Paul Farmer is best known to the public as a pioneering humanitarian,” Faust said. “He is also an outstanding educator with a remarkable capacity to inspire students to focus their minds and their energies on serving the common good.”

—Staff writer Caroline M. McKay can be reached at carolinemckay@college.harvard.edu.

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