What was Paul Farmer’s cause of death? Global humanitarian and health leader dies at 62

Global humanitarian leader and health pioneer Paul Farmer died due to a cardiac arrest (Image via Brigham and Women's Hospital and Partners In Health/Twitter)
Global humanitarian leader and health pioneer Paul Farmer died due to a cardiac arrest (Image via Brigham and Women's Hospital and Partners In Health/Twitter)

Paul Farmer, a renowned American physician and humanitarian, passed away on February 21, 2022, at the age of 62. The news of his demise was announced by Dr Sheila Davis, the CEO of his non-profit organization Partners In Health:

“Paul Farmer’s loss is devastating, but his vision for the world will live on through Partners in Health. Paul taught all those around him the power of accompaniment, love for one another, and solidarity. Our deepest sympathies are with his family.”

Dr Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States, also acknowledged Farmer’s death in an emotional statement:

“When you talk about iconic giants in the field of public health, he stands pretty much among a very, very short list of people. He called me his mentor, but in reality he was more of a mentor to me.”

Partners In Health also mentioned that Paul Farmer passed away in his sleep due to an acute cardiac arrest. He took his last breath in Rwanda, where he taught prior to his demise.


Paul Farmer co-founded Partners in Health in 1987

Paul Farmer founded Partners In Health in 1987 (Image via Will Ragozzino/Getty Images)
Paul Farmer founded Partners In Health in 1987 (Image via Will Ragozzino/Getty Images)

Paul Farmer was an American anthropologist, physician, humanitarian and author, known for his efforts to provide free healthcare facilities to millions of impoverished individuals across the globe.

He was born on October 26, 1959, in North Adams, Massachusetts and grew up in Weeki Wachee, Florida. He graduated from Hernando High School before attending Duke University as a Benjamin N. Duke Scholar.

Farmer earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in medical anthropology and graduated from university as a summa cum laude in 1982. Following his graduation, the physician started volunteer work at a hospital in Haiti.

The anthropologist earned an MD and a PhD in medical anthropology from Harvard University in 1990 and continued to work in Haiti. In 1993, Farmer completed an internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital before earning an infectious disease fellowship in 1996.

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Farmer co-founded the non-profit organization Partners In Health in 1987 with the aim of providing direct health care services for ailing individuals living in poverty. The Boston-based organization started operating in Cange, Haiti and went on to own around 16 sites across the U.S.

It also started operating in Rwanda, Lesotho, Malawi, Mexico, Peru, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Russia, and the Navajo Nation. In 2003, author Tracy Kidder wrote Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World highlighting Farmer’s work Haiti, Peru, and Russia.

The physician was named Chair of Harvard Medical School's Department of Global Health and Social Medicine in 2009. That same year, he was named United Nations Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti in his capacity as Special Envoy under former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

In 2010, Farmer was declared the Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard. He was also appointed the United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Community Based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti in 2012.

In 2015, Partners In Health launched the University of Global Health Equity initiative to deliver the highest quality health care by addressing social and systemic issues, creating inequities and inefficiencies in health care delivery.

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Farmer was the editor-in-chief of the Health and Human Rights Journal and served on the board of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy. He also co-founded and worked as a Board Member of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.

The humanitarian served on the board of healthcare and research organization PIVOT and community development agency Kageno Worldwide. He was also a member of the Advisory Board of Incentives for Global Health and the Global Advisory Council of GlobeMed.

Paul Farmer was even part of the Advisory Board of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and the Board of Trustees for EqualHealth. Throughout his career, he worked towards introducing public health strategies to respond to tuberculosis, H.I.V. and Ebola.

The physician also authored around 12 books in his life, including the latest Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History in 2020. Farmer and Partners In Health was also featured in the 2017 documentary Bending the Arc.

He received the Peace Abbey Foundation Courage of Conscience Award in 2007 for saving lives, providing free health care to the poorest communities in the world and working to improve the global health care system.

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Paul Farmer was also awarded the $1 million Berggruen Prize in 2020 for “reshaping” the understanding of treating health as a “human right.” He is survived by his wife Didi Bertrand Farmer and their three children.

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Edited by Prem Deshpande
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