On February 21, 2022 the world lost a most amazing man, Dr. Paul Farmer. What does this have to do with Haiti you might ask? And better yet, what does this have to do with my medical ministry? Well let’s just say the man developed his career and spent his life serving those most in need, and it all started in the little village of Hinche, which is located about 30miles west of the DR and about 47 miles north of Port au Prince in the Central Plateau of Haiti.
Dr. Farmer was born on October 26, 1959 into a rather large family but knew at a young age that he wanted to become a doctor. He obtained his medical degree and PhD from Harvard, where he also served as the chair of the Dept of Global Health and Social Medicine. During his years in medical school, internship and residency he would spend every free moment (which were few, but in Paul’s eyes, cherished) flying back to Haiti to serve the village of Hinche where he eventually funded, built and presided over his first hospital. This became the beginning of Partners in Health. PIH is a Boston-based nonprofit health care organization that Paul founded in 1987 with the focus on humanitarianism. It’s goals were and are to bring the benefits of modern medicine science to those most in need and to serve as an antidote to despair.
PIH is affiliated with the hospital that we, at Mission Possible, often use in St. Marc. For this reason, and many more, Dr. Farmer has become near and dear to my heart and my ministry. There is a larger PIH hospital in Mirabelais which now offers many specialized services as well.
But Paul didn’t stop there. This man took PIH to the most remote areas of the planet, and coupled with his vast intelligence and compassion, treated and cared for thousands of patients in the poorest regions. In his endeavors to knock out tuberculosis, Paul Farmer is the man behind the concept of COMMUNITY AGENTS. He realized that if lay people could be trained to help those in their communities with medication compliance, (as TB is a disease that requires treatment for many, many months) that cure rates then went up vastly! And what has my lovely co-worker, Deb Geis at Mission Possible, been overseeing???? Yep- our Community Agent program! When we started this program over 5 years ago, I had no idea the history behind it, but as I learned more about Dr. Farmer, I realized he was the actual mastermind behind this program. Community Agents are used widely in remote areas and I am proud to say that Mission Possible is a small part of this outreach.
Dr. Farmer, in my eyes, is an unsung hero. This man worked tirelessly to collaborate with governments across 12 different impoverished countries to bring quality healthcare to folks most in need. He deserves to be remembered, and its my personal goal to continue to learn about his many works and approaches to healthcare in underserved areas. Rest in peace, Paul, and thanks for all you’ve done to try and make this world a better place!
(If you want more information on Paul, he has written several books and also has a documentary on Netflix, called Bending the Arc).
— Belinda Ernst, Medical Coordinator