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‘His work saved countless lives’: Duke alumnus Paul Farmer dies at 62, remembered for global health advocacy

Paul Farmer, Trinity ‘82, trustee emeritus and distinguished leader in global health, passed away in his sleep on Monday due to an acute cardiac event. He was 62.

Farmer is remembered for his selfless commitment to global health work serving vulnerable populations and dedicated mentorship of developing global health students, leaders and physicians. 

Farmer, who resided in Rwanda, was the Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the department of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School. As a visionary and committed advocate for health equity worldwide, one of his most impactful efforts included co-founding Partners in Health, an international non-profit organization focused on addressing global health inequities around the world by strengthening public health systems in vulnerable communities.

“Paul was truly an inspiration, and he will rightfully be remembered for his pathbreaking work in global health and his selfless commitment to serving some of the most vulnerable populations in the world,” Duke President Vincent Price wrote in a statement. “His work saved countless lives; it also changed a great many lives for the better—the students he encouraged, the physicians he mentored, the friendships he forged the world over, and the family he loved.”

Farmer graduated summa cum laude in medical anthropology from Duke in 1982 and continued his education at Harvard University where he earned both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in anthropology. 

As an active member of the Duke community, Farmer served as a member of the Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2021 and was Duke’s commencement speaker in 2015. He earned the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2005. 

Farmer was a member of the Board of Advisors of the Duke Global Health Institute, where his passion for social justice and equity “inspired countless students and faculty to pursue careers in global health,” said Michael Merson, Wolfgang Joklik professor of global health and the founding director of the Duke Global Health Institute. 

Farmer was also known to be a frequent speaker at the University, most recently participating in the 2022 Victor J. Dzau Distinguished Lecture sponsored by the Duke Global Health Institute on Jan. 26, 2022. 

“His vision, mentorship and generosity have made an indelible impression on our work, and he will continue to be a guiding force for generations to come,” wrote Dennis Clements, interim director of the Duke Global Health Institute.

Farmer is survived by his wife Didi Bertrand Farmer and their three children.

Amy Guan | Health and Science News Editor

Amy Guan is a Pratt junior and health and science news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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