An obituary, farewell to a very dear friend

I lost a very dear friend sometime during the night of Sunday, February 20th.

Dr. Paul Farmer, internationally revered as the “Doctor for the world’s poor”, died in his sleep on Sunday night in Rwanda where he had built Africa’s best model of comprehensive rural health and medical and nursing school.

He was only 62.


Paul Farmer, whose impecunious parents raised him and his siblings in a trailer park in Florida, climbed up the glass wall of life, to win scholarships to Duke and Harvard University.

As a medical student, he went to Haiti to do a summer project and was deeply saddened to see HIV/AIDS and MDR/XDR Tb patients left untreated and dying, due to lack of funds.

He founded at that young age Partners in Health which is today is one of the world’s greatest NGOs ( which reaches patients with these diseases anywhere in the poor world.

Indian pharma made drugs for HIV/AIDS and Tb affordable for his NGO. He was very grateful to India for that. US pharma industry refused to lower prices. I was proud to see the Tb and HIV drugs from Indian pharma companies like Lupin, Ethnor and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories on the shelves of remote hospitals in Africa and Latin America.

He, who became one of the world’s most respected doctors, and called “The doctor for the world’s poor”- was a professor of ID and Anthropology at Harvard Medical School. They were a twin degree- an MD in the former and a PhD in the latter.

His greatest contributions to address these diseases have been in Haiti, Siberia, Peru, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique, and Rwanda.

He not only treated very poor patients with HIV/AIDs, and Tb, but also found them jobs, home, and food.

Many of his former patients became his best health workers.

His biography “Mountains beyond mountains” is a great read. It is on Amazon

We had worked together in international NGOs in two adjoining districts of Haiti. I was in Artibonite, he was in Central Plateau.

We became good friends.

Later, he rose to be a champion of global health and prolific speaker who could raise millions at fund-raising dinners. He advised Gates, Carter, Bush, Clinton, and President Biden.

Years back he even managed to convince President George Bush to launch PEPFAR, the world’s largest US Govt scheme which funds AIDS care in the poorest parts of the world. That was the best thing President George Bush ever did for the poor part of the world.

Tracy Kidder wrote his biography “Mountains beyond mountains” which is derived from a very ancient Haitian proverb “Deye mon gaye mon” which means that, in life, just as you overcome one challenge, another one looms ahead.

The book describes his life from a trailer park to Harvard and to the pinnacle of global health.

I am just one among the millions who would miss him deeply

Dr. Venkita S. Suresh