Paul Farmer, Partners In Health cofounder and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, was recently named a University Professor, Harvard’s highest distinction for a faculty member.
The President and Fellows of Harvard College established the University Professorships in 1935 to recognize “individuals of distinction…working on the frontiers of knowledge, and in such a way as to cross the conventional boundaries of the specialties.” Only 23 of Harvard’s more than 12,000 faculty members currently hold this honor.
“Paul Farmer is best known to the public as a pioneering humanitarian,” Harvard University President Drew Faust said in announcing the appointment. “But among scholars he is equally well-known for his research and writing, which have crossed boundaries between the social sciences and biomedical research and married theory and practice to forge a new approach to global health. He is also an outstanding educator with a remarkable capacity to inspire students to focus their minds and their energies on serving the common good.”
“Having built my academic career around the conviction that we can take the fruits of scientific discovery in medicine and public health and improve the lives of people who have been marginalized by poverty and other forces beyond their immediate control, I am deeply grateful to Harvard,” Farmer said. “I’m grateful for decades of support for a model of engagement that links research to training to direct services, and for the opportunity to show how scholarship and teaching can have a profound impact outside the classroom.”
Farmer’s research at the intersection of medical anthropology, public health, and clinical medicine has formed a cornerstone of the effort to relate theory to effective practice in global health. His work is recognized as having made essential contributions to ethnography, the anthropology of epidemic disease, the theory of structural violence, and empirical studies of human rights in the health arena; he has contributed to clinical literature in the arena of drug-resistant tuberculosis and AIDS. While many scholars working in the field of medical anthropology are able to clearly describe the problems facing a particular community, Farmer’s medical training and extensive fieldwork enable him and his team to develop and implement solutions to serious public health challenges.
Farmer is also currently Maude and Lillian Presley Professor 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; Professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health; and a leading figure in the Harvard Institute for Global Health, with responsibility for medical education and physician training. In 2009, Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy for Haiti, appointed Farmer as the Deputy UN Special Envoy for Haiti.
Farmer becomes the first Kolokotrones University Professor, a chair established through a gift from Wendy and Theo Kolokotrones, M.B.A. ’70.
Read more about Paul’s appointment in the Harvard Gazette.
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