‘A great loss’: Partners in Health co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, dead at 62

A massive outpouring of grief and emotional tributes resulted Monday after news broke that Partners In Health co-founder and Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Paul Farmer—renowned for his groundbreaking work in global public health—had died.

“This is so sudden, an unimaginable catastrophe to all of us, and the global health community as a whole,” the Rwanda-based University of Global Health Equity—an initiative of Partners In Health—said in a statement Monday.

According to a statement from Partners In Health, Farmer’s Monday death in Rwanda was unexpected; he died in his sleep at just 62 years old.

“Paul taught all those around him the power of accompaniment, love for one another, and solidarity,” said the group’s CEO Dr. Sheila Davis.

The international health organization noted in a statement upon his pasing that “Farmer and his colleagues pioneered novel, community-based treatment strategies that demonstrate the delivery of high-quality healthcare in resource-poor settings. He wrote extensively on health, human rights, and the consequences of social inequality.”

A medical anthropologist, physician, and supporter of liberation theology, Farmer was also the author of numerous books including Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor; AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame; and Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues.

In a tweet, Dr. Céline Gounder, an epidemiologist and medical journalist, said that her own work had been inspired by Farmer. She shared passages from AIDS and Accusation including Farmer’s words that AIDS “will become, rather, a disease of the poor… when the illness has settled in on those social strata, research on HIV infection and its prevention will be marginalized.”

“Just as HIV/AIDS, TB, and other infectious diseases revealed us for who we are, so too is Covid,” tweeted Gounder. “Paul, we need people like you now more than ever.”

In a December 2020 appearance on Democracy Now!, when the U.S. then accounted for 20% of the world’s Covid-19 infections and deaths, Farmer saidthat “all the social pathologies of our nation come to the fore during epidemics. And during a pandemic like this one, we’re going to be showing the rest of the world, warts and all… how badly we can do.”

Farmer is survived by his wife and three children.