5 health leaders reflect on Dr. Paul Farmer's contributions

Numerous leaders have reflected on the life of Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, a global public health leader and founder of the nonprofit Partners in Medicine, who died Feb. 21.  

Dr. Farmer died at age 62 from an acute cardiac event while sleeping, according to NPR. The physician and anthropologist had been in Rwanda teaching at a medical school he co-founded. 

Below, five leaders reflected on Dr. Farmer's global contributions:

"When you talk about iconic giants in the field of public health, he stands pretty much among a very, very short list of people," Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, told The New York Times. Dr. Fauci first met Dr. Farmer decades ago when Dr. Farmer was a medical student. He added, "He called me his mentor, but in reality he was more of a mentor to me."

"He really stands out as one of the most influential global health figures of our time, and I don't think that's a hyperbole," Dr. Fauci said in a separate interview with The Washington Post

"There are so many people that are alive because of that man," Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC, said in a brief interview with the Times, adding that she wanted to compose herself before speaking further. 

"Paul Farmer's loss is devastating, but his vision for the world will live on through Partners in Health," PIH CEO Sheila Davis, DNP, MSN, said in a statement cited by NPR. "Paul taught all those around him the power of accompaniment, love for one another, and solidarity." 

"He didn't take no for an answer," Michelle Karshan, vice president and co-founder of Health through Walls, a nonprofit prison healthcare system in Haiti, told The Los Angeles Times. She worked closely with Dr. Farmer. "He didn't think anybody was too poor or too illiterate to be entitled to receive healthcare." 

"I left Rwanda Saturday night. Paul died Monday morning," Sriram Shamasunder, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco and co-founder and faculty director of the HEAL Initiative, told NPR affiliate WKYU-FM. "Even if we must learn to let go of his physical life, we, his students all over the world, will never let go of the example he set for us."

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