Cate Oswald: "The movement that Paul catalyzed continues to grow."

Image Courtesy of Cate Oswald
Cate Oswald, PIH's Chief Policy and Partnership Officer for Global Policy and Programs. Courtesy of Cate Oswald

At a memorial service for Paul Farmer in Boston on March 4, 2022, Cate Oswald, PIH's Chief Policy and Partnership Officer for Global Policy and Programs, was one of several speakers delivering tributes. Here are her edited remarks:

"One of the greatest gifts that Paul left us—and there are so very many-- as thousands have eloquently expressed over the past days since his passing—was his super-human ability to have left each of us who knew him well with our own  memories of our unique relationship with him. For me, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing of Paul’s work for the past 20 years when I was assigned to read Infections and Inequalities in a medical anthropology course while as an undergrad at Brown. It is there that I met fellow classmates who shared a passion for health equity and social justice who committed then and there that our life’s work would be dedicated to combatting structural violence. Little did I know, 20 years later, even though we each took different paths, Ari, Sangeeta, John, Gaurab, Robin and I are not only still dedicated to this work, but we are each serving as leaders in our respective organizations--Muso, HEAL Initiative, Last Mile Health, Cambridge Health Alliance Center for Health Equity Education and Advocacy, and PIH—organizations all deeply influenced by Paul’s writing, mentorship and vision.  

My winding path with PIH first brought me to the Central Plateau of Haiti—a place I still call home even though it has sadly been a few years since I’ve been able to be back home—where I had the great privilege of learning the art of  accompaniment from the best teachers. Even though Paul was not present on a daily basis, he always felt ever present in our work at Zanmi Lasante. In the number of patients who he instructed me to procure mp3 players or later-- when technology advanced—ipod minis—so they could listen to their favorite songs while spending many days and nights alone in the hospital. In the weekly Saturday morning grounds clean up crews and gardening club we held at Hospital St. Therese in Hinche for many years—we called this Dignification—in Paul Speak. In the thousands of hours walking to patient homes, eating meals together and sharing stories. 

When I was going through the act of completing this work over the past many years I had not realized—until stepping into my current role dedicated to advancing our policy and advocacy efforts—that each and every action I was taking—that Paul had demonstrated to me first hand—was in and of itself advocacy. Patient advocacy. Leading with the patient at the center. And this I am committed to doing even more boldly in the days and weeks ahead, as the movement that Paul catalyzed continues to grow."