Dr. Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist, physician, and professor at Harvard Medical School, passed away on February 21, 2022, in Butaro, Rwanda. Dr. Farmer was the subject of Tracy Kidder’s 2003 book Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. The book is an account of the difference Dr. Farmer made in solving global health problems through his clear-eyed understanding of the interaction of politics, wealth, social systems, and disease. In it, Kidder details Dr. Farmer’s journey from medical school—where he found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most—to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as he affected change through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.” Since its publication, the book has resonated with generations of students and has been selected for common reading at over 100 high schools, colleges, and universities across the country.
Following Dr. Farmer’s death, Tracy Kidder wrote in The New York Times, “Paul’s basic belief was that all human beings deserve equal respect and care, especially when they are sick. His dream, he once told me, was to start a movement that would refuse to accept, and would strive to repair, the grotesque health inequities among and within the countries of the world.” Kidder concluded with a reminder of Dr. Farmer’s incredible impact on those whose lives he touched: “Paul’s plans and dreams live on in the minds of thousands of people, who are equipped and eager to follow his example.”