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Paul Farmer to Speak at Graduation

‘Man who would cure the world’ to speak at commencement, receive honorary degree

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Paul Farmer, physician, anthropologist and Harvard professor, known worldwide for his pioneering work in global health -- particularly in Haiti -- will speak at Northwestern University’s 154th commencement. 

Northwestern’s 2012 commencement ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 15, at the University’s Ryan Field.

Farmer, M.D., Ph.D., is the co-founder of Partners In Health, the international humanitarian organization dedicated to working with communities to fight disease and to deliver health care in resource-poor areas of the world.

He is also the Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School; chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and United Nations Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti, under Special Envoy Bill Clinton.

Starting with a one-building clinic in Haiti’s Central Plateau, Partners In Health has grown to become a multinational organization operating in 12 sites throughout Haiti and 12 other countries around the world. For more than two decades, Farmer and his colleagues have pioneered novel community-based treatment strategies that demonstrate the delivery of high-quality health care in resource-poor settings -- from neighborhoods in Boston to prisons in the former Soviet Union to shantytowns in Lima, Peru. They have been instrumental in developing strategies for combating tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and in relief efforts following the devastating earthquake in Haiti two years ago.

Farmer has written extensively on health, human rights and the consequences of social inequality. In his most recent book, “Haiti After The Earthquake,” Farmer recounts his experience tending to the injured in the disaster and examines the social, historical and political factors that made Haiti so vulnerable to the aftermath of the earthquake.

He is also the subject of Tracy Kidder’s best-selling book “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World.” Because Kidder’s New York Times Notable Book was chosen for One Book One Northwestern for the 2010-11 school year, Farmer is particularly well known to Northwestern students. 

The following is from a story titled “Global Health Champions” on the PBS website: 

“Farmer believes it’s his responsibility to be outspoken, and he lectures widely on global health. ‘I feel it’s part of my job to make the problems of the poor compelling,’ he says. ’It’s only through a failure of imagination that people turn away. 

‘The poor are doing their job—they’re shouting as loud as they can. It’s we who can’t hear them. What the American public thinks is very important to the future of global health. Many people are moved by the idea that there is unnecessary suffering in the world, and we could do a lot to stop it. We have the technologies necessary to stop most of the suffering.’”

“You don't need to reproduce Paul Farmer's actions but his message," Kidder said in his February 2011 talk to Northwestern students, according to the Daily Northwestern. "One small group can improve the world. You are all in school to help the world." 

Northwestern graduates will have an opportunity to hear about Farmer’s vision for global health equity and efforts to realize it when Farmer delivers the commencement address.  

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