By Shen Gao
Last Tuesday, Dr. Paul E. Farmer, Professor of Global Health & Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, led a discussion here at Simmons College as part of the Friars Leaders Program.
Dr. Farmer is widely recognized for his work on health, human rights, and consequences of social equality. In the discussion led by moderator and college provost Katie Conboy, he shares with the audience his experience in bringing healthcare to remote, rural areas in the world that lacks quality health care.
Well-known for his humanitarian work in Haiti and other countries, Dr. Farmer shared his vision for Partners In Health (PIH), a non-profit healthcare organization. He recognized that people who are at a disadvantage of receiving health care are often marginalized by structural policies that may be in place. There are poor people in every country, but his vision remains the same, which is bringing access to health care in under-resourced countries by partnering with local health professionals and volunteers.
Dr. Farmer stated that if funding for global health efforts from the U.S. are scaled back, it would be very problematic. There are patients and survivors in countries like Liberia, Uganda, and Russia, who are alive precisely because of their improved access to health care as a result of help from the U.S.
At the discussion, audience members posed some questions for Dr. Farmer to answer. One of these questions involved is how PIH go into other countries and establish trust with the locals. In answering the question, Dr. Farmer shared that the biggest trap is in thinking you know more than you do. He stressed the idea that a majority of Americans are known to have privilege, so being humble is a very important trait to have when interacting with partners in the local areas, in order to learn the most and partner together in the most productive way.