News, On Campus

Upcoming: Paul Farmer to Talk Universal Health Care, Controversies

Amid the current political debate over single-payer healthcare, Paul Farmer, M.D. and Ph.D., of Partners In Health, may provide an answer to this hot-button issue.

Farmer will deliver the inaugural lecture in the Park Street Corporation Speaker Series on March 22. The event is titled “Universal Health Care? From Slogan to Mantra” and will be held at 7 p.m. in Robsham Theater.

Farmer is the co-founder and chief strategist of Partners in Health, an international non-profit organization. Farmer founded the organization alongside Ophelia Dahl, an advocate for the health of the poor, and Jim Yong Kim, now the president of the World Bank Group. Since 1987, the organization has provided health care, conducted research, and undertaken advocacy efforts for the impoverished across the world. Partners in Health operates in Haiti, Rwanda, Mexico, Peru, and other third-world nations. The organization has built hospitals and health posts in areas in which people would not otherwise have access to health care.

According to its Web site, the organization’s two main goals are to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair.

Farmer is described as “the man who would cure the world” in the award-winning book Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. This biographical work follows Farmer’s life from his work at Brigham and Women’s Hospital when he met Ophelia Dahl and formed Partners in Health. The book describes his journeys throughout Haiti, Cuba, and Russia as he worked to battle infectious diseases affecting impoverished nations across the world. Farmer served under former president Bill Clinton as the United Nations Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti. In June, Clinton presented Farmer with the Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Entrepreneurship.

“I can honestly say that a great deal of the good things that have happened to me in my life … are directly on the shoulders of Paul Farmer,” Clinton said at the ceremony. “There are so many people all across the world whose lives he has saved, but countless others we will never know, whose lives he has touched.”

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates were among the audience members applauding Farmer at the Forbes Award Ceremony.

Farmer’s talk at Boston College will kick off the new Park Street Corporation Speaker Series in Health, Humanity, and Ethics. The goal of the series is to engage students in exploring values and ethics related to health and health care practices. The series is funded by the Institutional Review Board at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Amy Boesky, the director of the minor in medical humanities, is co-director of the Park Series. The medical humanities minor, a recent addition to the interdisciplinary minors at BC, is a humanistic and cultural study of illness, health care, and the body.

“We [held] a series of workshops in which we talked about how could we come together from different disciplines to think about interdisciplinary approaches to health and health-care,” she said.

Courses in this interdisciplinary minor are available through the Morissey College of Arts and Sciences, and include classes in social science, psychology, and natural science.

Boesky also talked about the future speakers of the Park Street Series. She said that journalists and co-authors Nick Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn will speak on September 15 about the health inequities related to their work on gender and human rights. Boesky also announced that other speakers for next year will include Susan Reverby from Wellesley College on medical history, Rosemarie Garland Thomson on disability bioethics, and Meghan O’Rourke on chronic illness and the ‘future’ of illness.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

March 21, 2016