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Harvard Medical Anthropologist, Physician to Speak at Commencement


March 25, 2003

[ Paul Farmer Photo ] DELAWARE, OHIO -- It's been a 15-plus-year battle for Dr. Paul Farmer, waged within a small town in Haiti and the slums of Peru. The enemies, however, are not machete-carrying soldiers, but rather, deadly strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis and the AIDS virus.

Farmer, a medical anthropologist, infectious disease physician, and a world-renowned authority on tuberculosis treatment and control, is Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Social Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, and medical co-director of Clinique Bon Sauveur, a charity hospital in Haiti. He will be Ohio Wesleyan University's 2003 Commencement speaker on Sunday, May 11, announced OWU President Tom Courtice and Senior Class President Danish Shafi.

"With a career that reflects a humanitarian spirit and a sense of global responsibility, Dr. Farmer's balance of practice, scholarship and service embody the Ohio Wesleyan ideal," says Courtice. "We are fortunate to have him as our Commencement speaker."

"Dr. Farmer's life and practice embody a sense of global humanitarianism and a passion for service that have been an essential part of the college experience for the Class of 2003. He has been realizing our dream of making the world a better place for years," says Shafi.

Farmer, a founding director of Partners in Health, a non-profit organization active in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the United States, divides his clinical time between the Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of Infectious Disease, where he is an attending physician, and the clinic in Haiti. His research in anthropology took him to Haiti in the early 1980s, and with the rapid spread on the island of the HIV/AIDS epidemic occurring at that time, he found himself spending more time there. He pioneered a community-based treatment method that started to have better clinical outcomes than those in U.S. inner cities. This method includes close monitoring of patients by teams of health care workers who make sure complicated drug regimens are being followed.

Dr. Farmer has been a member of the International Scientific Committee's International Conference on AIDS; coordinator of the International Working Group on Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis; chief medical consultant for the Tuberculosis Treatment Project in the Prisons of Tomsk (Siberia); member of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Bureau of Communicable Disease Control; and has served on the Scientific Review Board of 10 of the last International Conferences on AIDS.

Author or co-author of more than 75 scholarly publications, his research and writing stem mostly from his work in Haiti and Peru and from clinical and teaching experiences. He writes extensively about health and human rights and about the role of social inequalities in the distribution and outcomes of readily treatable diseases. He has authored AIDS and Accusation (University of California Press, 1992); The Uses of Haiti (Common Courage Press, 1994); Infections and Inequalities (University of California Press, 1998); and the forthcoming Pathologies of Power (University of California Press).

Among the many awards Farmer has received during the last decade are the Duke University Humanitarian Award; the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association; and the American Medical Association's Outstanding International Physician (Nathan Davis) Award. In 1993, he received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation "genius award" in recognition of his work. More recently, Farmer was awarded a $250,000 Heinz Award for the Human Condition, along with five others, for his dedication to bringing quality health care to some of the world's poorest citizens, and helping them fight the deadliest infectious diseases.