Reading this week’s articles and listening to the lectures, it wasn’t hard to find a medical anthropologist to analyze. In fact just googling ‘medical anthropology’ and ‘global health’ serendipitously brings up results that include Dr. Paul Farmer, a prominent medical anthropologists featured in this week’s class.  Perhaps even more karmic was the fact that the website link provided was to ‘Global Health Delivery’, which was a page I have linked on my Weebly page for a previous class topic as I found the Harvard site informative. Dr. Paul Farmer also has developed novel ‘first world care’ for ‘third world resources’ and as such is an inspiration to me in my own future goal to do something similar in Pakistan.

Dr. Paul Farmer is a physician and a medical anthropologist. He also happens to be the chair of the Harvard University medical school division known as ‘Global Health and Social Medicine’. Moreover, he founded ‘Partners in Health’ (a free medical service) which was originally established to help those in Haiti with their chronic illnesses, in particular tuberculosis. According to the Center for Disease Control website, in 2010 Haiti had the highest incidence of tuberculosis in the Western Hemisphere ( In this article, several partners committed to helping the CDC are listed and include a Haitian government TB program, USAID and Dr. Farmer’s group Partners in Health. Dr. Farmer is so committed to the program that despite once being expelled from Haiti, he snuck back in via a small bribe in order to continue his philanthropic medical work. One of the most important works of Dr. Farmer is the discovery and development of lateral thinking when trying to gain access to the most needy people. Rather than waiting for paitents to show up at hospitals, Dr. Farmer has established programs which connect hospitals to community centers and community workers, known in Haiti as  “accompagnateurs”. These workers provide critical out reach services to rural areas. In fact his  was so successful that Dr. Farmer is developing similar programs in America. Despite America being considered a first world nation, some of its internal health problems could be considered similar to poor nations like Haiti. The information about Dr. Farmers work was taken from a transcript of a radio interview with Dr. Farmer about his current work in Rwanda. 25 years of experience of working with hard to access communities with chronic illnesses has provided Dr. Farmer with the tools now to help other countries with similar problems. Though the topic is about Rwanda, Dr. Farmer uses continuous reference to his work in Haiti as the inspirational foundation for his latest works.

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  1. Dan Wright says:

    Hi, I liked your post because it seems you appreciated the Paul Farmer video as much as I did. I wrote a paper on the current state of tuberculosis in the world last semester. From what I learned then and also from the materials this past week, I see that Dr. Farmer’s approach is the most successful. Previously, other treatment campaigns for this disease have simply supplied TB vaccines without the follow up check. As was briefly mentioned in the video, this approach was very unsuccessful because the patients due to mistrust and other reasons did not take the entire set of vaccines. In turn, the disease came back and in a new more resistant and thus more dangerous form. Dr. Farmer’s combination of medical and anthropological approach to curing TB in Haiti is going much better because he has formed relationships with the local people who then trust him. This has several implications. Firstly, it means they trust the medicine and will continue to take the full regiment. Secondly, it improves the entire Haitian community’s trust in other anthropologists and doctors who will now be able to work more successfully to cure other illnesses. His idea of “accompagnateurs” will lead to much more thorough identification of illnesses than if the natives had been left to seek help for themselves.

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