Paul Farmer, Presley professor of medical anthropology at Harvard University, and founder of international health and social justice organization, Partners in Health, gave the keynote address at Emory University’s convocation ceremony May 14.
Dr. Farmer is widely recognized for helping to treat some of the world’s poorest people and getting them access to drugs to treat tuberculosis and AIDS. His work in Haiti, Peru, Cuba and Russia is profiled in the 2003 book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” by Pulitzer prize-winning author, Tracy Kidder.
During the address, Dr. Farmer commended Emory’s Global Health Institute for its efforts to conduct research that helps the world’s poor.
He also recognized Emory graduates who had already worked with the poor internationally including Julie Rosenberg, a master’s graduate of Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, who had worked in Peru; Elizabeth Sholtys, an undergraduate who founded Ashraya Initiative for Children, an orphanage for street children in India and Robbie Brown, a college senior who donated $20,000 of scholarship monies to Ms. Sholtys’ orphanage.
Also during the address, Dr. Farmer joked that he was not as well known as other convocation speakers across the country and noted that Emory had given out 2,000 copies of Mr. Kidder’s book to make students and faculty more aware of his global health work before the convocation ceremony.
He talked briefly about his work in Haiti, but emphasized a relationship he had developed with “Joe,” a Haitian refugee boy who is now serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq, as a non-U.S. citizen.
Dr. Farmer visited Joe, his brother and HIV-infected mother when the family first arrived to New York, after having spent almost two years in a camp for HIV-infected refugees at the U.S. military base in GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba.
Between the early 1990s and 2005, Dr. Farmer said that he had lost touch with the family, but reconnected with them when Joe, now 24, sent a donation to Partners in Health and expressed his interest in helping to improve social conditions in his native Haiti.
Dr. Farmer shared the story to encourage Emory graduates to think of the less fortunate, keep alive “utopian ideals” of making the world a better place and remain connected with friends and colleagues throughout their lives, he said.
Emory honored Dr. Farmer with an honorary doctor of science degree.
For more information on the convocation, contact Beverly Clark, associate director of media relations at Emory, at (404) 712-8780.