Dr. Paul Farmer is a world famous physician and humanitarian, who was raised in Hernando County. He graduated from Hernando High in 1978, where he served as class president. By 1983, prior to entering medical school, he was in Haiti laying the groundwork for what would become a revolutionary way to bring healthcare to impoverished communities. He graduated from Harvard with an MD and a PhD.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN fame wrote an article about him entitled "The man who inspired me to be more selfless." Ben Affleck and Matt Damon recently produced a documentary film about "How Three Young Activists Saved Millions of Lives," called “Bending the Arc.” One of those three activists is Paul Farmer.
Dr. Farmer co-founded a community-based clinic in a small village in Haiti called Cange. This lead to the creation of Partners In Health (PIH) in 1987. Originally the focus was on treating people with HIV/AIDS. PIH has expanded to a number of countries and increased their focus to tackling disease, poverty and human rights. PIH now serves 1,000 patients daily for free in Haiti. PIH is active in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Russia, Navajo Nation, Peru, Mexico, Haiti, Lesotho, Rwanda, and Malawi.
Dr. Farmer practices what he preaches. He personally provided healthcare in the countryside of Haiti. He speaks Creole and earned the trust of the remote villagers. He currently splits time between Rwanda, Haiti, and other areas.
Dr. Farmer has received a number of awards for his humanitarian service. Dr. Farmer was awarded MacArthur Fellowship in 1993. He donated the $500,000 awarded with the grant to allow Partners In Health to create the Institute for Health and Social Justice. Former President Bill Clinton awarded Dr. Farmer the Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2015.
Dr. Farmer gained international prominence in 2003 as a result of the bestseller by author Tracy Kidder who wrote "Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World." Tracy met Dr. Farmer in Haiti in 1994 and wrote the book tracing his life as a physician and anthropologist with an emphasis on his work fighting tuberculosis in Haiti, Peru and Russia.
Dr. Farmer is an influential authority on the healthcare needs of impoverished areas. He is extensively quoted by the media and his articles and commentary are widely distributed. He is known for his acerbic wit, some of his quotes can be quite biting. When asked about America's Health care he replied "I've been asked a lot for my view on American health care. Well, 'it would be a good idea,' to quote Gandhi." He also said "The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world."
He has also remarked, “It is very expensive to give bad medical care to poor people in a rich country.”
This important world figure has his roots in Hernando County. He grew up in a trailer park and now is one of the most well known people to come out of the county. He is held in high esteem by important figures from world leaders to celebrities. He is self described as "a poor people's doctor." He is working to improve the health care of the poor throughout the world.
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