Remembering Dr. Paul Farmer


EJI joins millions around the world who are grieving the death of Dr. Paul Farmer, who died this morning in Rwanda. We count ourselves among the many who have been touched by his healing hands and his incomparable spirit.

Paul Farmer was an infectious disease doctor who battled epidemics, disease, disaster, despair, and inequality on four continents.

Nearly 40 years ago, he co-founded Partners in Health, which remains one of the most effective and admired healthcare institutions in the world.

Paul Farmer was also a longstanding member of EJI’s Board of Directors, each year inspiring us to do more for the vulnerable, the imprisoned, and the disfavored.

Paul Farmer spent some of his childhood years in Alabama with a loving family living in humble circumstances. They eventually moved to Florida, where Paul excelled academically, making his way to Harvard Medical School after graduating from Duke.

At Harvard, he met Jim Kim, Ophelia Dahl, and Todd McCormick, and together they founded Partners in Health, a small human rights organization that sought to provide quality healthcare to people living in poverty. PIH staff spent their early years in Haiti and learned from the people they served how to make healthcare more successful.

At a time when world health organizations were advising against treating poor people who suffered from multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in developing countries, Paul Farmer and PIH devised new delivery systems for management of medicines that cultivated some of the best cure rates in the world.

Dr. Farmer’s work evolved to treating HIV, infectious disease outbreaks in Africa, and medical catastrophes around the globe. In Peru, Mexico, Lesotho, Rwanda, Russia, and dozens of countries around the world, he became the preeminent healer to the poorest of the poor.

Witty, charismatic, and unstoppable, Paul Farmer and his colleagues created new strategies for healthcare delivery that revolutionized care models, especially in underserved areas.

He oversaw the development of hospitals in Haiti and Rwanda while inspiring generations of physicians, anthropologists, and professionals from all walks of life to join the cause.

EJI extends our heartbroken condolences to his family, our siblings at PIH, and all those around the world who share our knowledge that a great soul has passed on but will never be forgotten.