$50M Gift Establishes Paul Farmer Collaborative
Cummings Foundation commitment to support long-term global health alliance between Harvard Medical School and the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda
BOSTON, Jan. 10, 2023 – A new $50 million gift from Woburn, Mass.-based Cummings Foundation will build upon and amplify the work of late global health champion Paul Farmer.
The gift establishes the Paul Farmer Collaborative of Harvard Medical School (HMS) and University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), an initiative of Partners In Health (PIH) based in Rwanda. It will be divided equally between the two institutions.
Farmer, a physician and medical anthropologist, was the Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard University, chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at HMS, chancellor of UGHE, and co-founder and chief strategist of Partners In Health, the international health and human rights organization. He died on Feb. 21, at age 62, while teaching at UGHE.
“During his all-too-brief time here with us, Paul was the vital physical link between Harvard and UGHE,” said Joyce Cummings, who co-founded Cummings Foundation with her husband, suburban Boston real estate magnate Bill Cummings. “In Paul’s absence, it is critical that we act to ensure that this bond and his work endure.”
The Paul Farmer Collaborative
The gift is intended to build on Farmer’s legacy and enable researchers at both institutions to deepen their exploration of social medicine, a field focused on the many factors influencing a person’s health, and pursue fundamental questions about social determinants of health and humane caregiving. The overarching goal of the collaborative is to catalyze the development of sustainable, equitable health systems that improve health care delivery to underserved populations.
The program, named in Farmer’s honor, will build on existing multifaceted collaborations between HMS and UGHE. Cummings Foundation’s contribution, which will be paid over 10 years, will fund:
- Independent and collaborative research, teaching, and education at both institutions.
- Exchange of students, postdoctoral trainees, and faculty between the two institutions.
- An annual global conference and workshop on health equity, global health delivery, research, education, and social medicine.
- An endowed Cummings Foundation Professorship of Global Health Equity at HMS to continue advancing Farmer’s ideals and objectives.
- Clinical training opportunities for medical students and residents with an initial focus on building surgical capacity and surgical health innovation in low-resource settings. Long term, the training could expand to include other clinical specialties such as mental health, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, internal medicine, dermatology, and anesthesiology.
“This gift will allow us to continue Paul’s transformative work and honor his vision to reshape health care delivery for marginalized populations and to connect HMS with the University of Global Health Equity,” said HMS Dean George Q. Daley. “This gift is a powerful reminder that as a global community, we are only as strong as the most vulnerable among us, which Paul understood better than anyone.”
In dollars and time commitment, the gift represents one of the most significant relationships that HMS has in Africa.
“It is incredibly exciting to have a nearly 400-year-old institution collaborating at such a significant level with a seven-year-old institution,” said Joyce Cummings. “Meaningful international partnerships are essential to effectively teaching global health, so Harvard will benefit immensely from solidifying its relationship with a top-notch university in such a highly desirable locale for learning and teaching about global health delivery. And UGHE will enjoy enormous reputational benefits, affording it greater visibility to major international life sciences and pharma firms seeking appropriate sites for investment, operations, and collaboration.”
“UGHE is training a new generation of leaders who will bring together the best evidence and a strong commitment to equity to improve health systems in East Africa and beyond,” said Jim Yong Kim, co-founder of Partners In Health and newly appointed successor to Farmer as chancellor of UGHE. “Cummings Foundation’s visionary gift will greatly facilitate the exchange of knowledge between students and faculty in Boston and Butaro. We are so grateful to Bill and Joyce Cummings and we know that their gift will be transformative.”
Kim previously served as president of the World Bank and of Dartmouth College. Like Farmer, he earned his MD and PhD at HMS and served as chair of its Department of Global Health and Social Medicine.
Created by Partners In Health, UGHE was launched in 2015 with substantial support from Cummings Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Republic of Rwanda. The government donated land for the magnificent rural campus, plus major new roadways and improved access to water, electricity, and internet connectivity.
In addition to the new $50 million gift, Cummings Foundation has contributed $2 million to UGHE to construct a residential facility for visiting faculty on its campus in rural Butaro, Rwanda. The 10,000-square-foot structure will offer about 10 apartments and a faculty lounge to facilitate connections among full-time and visiting professors.
Support for UGHE has grown significantly in recent years, with the largest donations coming from Cummings Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Up until this year, Cummings Foundation has contributed more than $27.5 million to UGHE, while the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated more than $18.5 million to help establish the university’s flagship degree programs.
In September 2022, the Gates Foundation committed $50 million to the Paul E. Farmer Scholarship Fund at UGHE, which will cover the tuition, room, board and expenses of 3,000 students over the next 25 years.
With this gift, Cummings Foundation also honors Larry Bacow, Harvard’s 29th president, who in June announced his plans to step down from his role on June 30, 2023.
“Harvard is so grateful for Cummings Foundation’s support to carry on Paul Farmer’s important work,” said Bacow. “Through their thoughtful and generous philanthropy, Bill and Joyce have improved the lives of countless people throughout the world. This gift will build on their important work.”
“We are so pleased to honor the legacies of both Paul and Larry, two dear friends,” said Joyce Cummings. “Our hope is that this long-term funding will help to carry on their commitments to leadership and service on a global scale.”
About Cummings Foundation
Its investment in the Paul Farmer Collaborative brings Cummings Foundation’s commitments to educational institutions to nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. Other major beneficiaries include Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, Cummings School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Endicott College, James McKeown School of Education at Salem State University, Cummings School of Architecture at Roger Williams University, and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, where the foundation first established its relationship with then-president Larry Bacow.
Cummings Foundation has awarded a total of nearly $450 million to date to nonprofits based in greater Boston. Founded by Joyce and Bill Cummings in 1986, the $3 billion foundation directly operates its own charitable affiliates, including not-for-profit New Horizons retirement communities in Marlborough and Woburn and Cummings Health Sciences, LLC. Additional information is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.
About Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School has more than 11,000 faculty working in the 11 basic and social science departments comprising the Blavatnik Institute and at the 15 Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutes: Baker Center for Children and Families, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Hebrew SeniorLife, Joslin Diabetes Center, Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and VA Boston Healthcare System.
About the University of Global Health Equity
The University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) is a health sciences university in Rwanda. An initiative of Partners In Health, UGHE is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institution founded in 2015, thanks in part to the visionary leadership of the Cummings Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Learn more at https://ughe.org
About Partners In Health
Founded in Haiti in 1987, Partners In Health is a nonprofit social justice organization working to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need. Some 30 years later, it has a documented history of implementing effective health delivery models in partnership with governments and academic institutions around the world, providing high-quality care to millions of patients. Learn more at www.pih.org.