Emory Report
March 26, 2007
Volume 59, Number 24

Emory Report homepage  

March 26, 2007
Paul Farmer to deliver graduation address

by beverly clark

Internationally renowned physician, anthropologist and global health advocate Paul Farmer will deliver the keynote address at Emory’s 162nd commencement ceremony Monday, May 14. He will receive an honorary doctor of science degree.

Farmer has dedicated his life to treating some of the world’s poorest populations, and in the process has helped raise the standard of health care in underdeveloped areas of the world. Farmer is a founding director of Partners In Health, an international charity organization that provides direct health care services and undertakes research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. Through this work, Farmer and his colleagues have successfully challenged policymakers and critics who claim that quality health care is impossible to deliver in resource-poor areas.

“As we celebrate the Class of 2007, commencement will bring a fitting keynote address from a truly remarkable human being, Paul Farmer. His work in the course of a still relatively young life has exemplified Emory’s vision of working toward positive transformation in the world, especially at the culmination of a year in which the University launched major initiatives to address the problems Dr. Farmer fights to solve every day,” said President Jim Wagner, who will preside over the ceremony for about 3,400 graduates.

The Emory initiatives related to Farmer’s work include the Institute for Developing Nations, a partnership between Emory and The Carter Center that works to develop new pathways through research to reduce the chasm between the world’s richest nations and the poorest. The Institute is currently focused on Africa. The Emory University Global Health Institute also was established this year to develop innovative research, training and programs to address the most pressing health challenges around the world, particularly in poor countries.

Farmer has worked in infectious-disease control in the Americas for nearly two decades and is a world-renowned authority on tuberculosis treatment and control. He is an attending physician in infectious diseases and chief of the Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and is medical director of a charity hospital, the Clinique Bon Sauveur, in rural Haiti. With his colleagues at BWH, Harvard Medical School’s Program in Infectious Disease and Social Change, and in Haiti, Peru and Russia, Farmer has pioneered novel, community-based treatment strategies for AIDS and tuberculosis, including multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Farmer, the Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, has written extensively about health and human rights, and about the role of social inequalities in the distribution and outcome of infectious diseases. In 1993, he was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius award” in recognition of his work. Farmer is the subject of Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.”

Three other individuals also will be recognized during commencement with honorary degrees: environmental sustainability advocate Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface Inc., who will receive a doctor of science; Beverly Benson Long, past president of the World Federation for Mental Health, who will receive a doctor of science; and the late Benny Andrews, a renowned African-American artist, teacher and activist, who will be posthumously awarded a doctor of humane letters degree.