Over 20 years ago, Dr. Paul Farmer graduated from Harvard Medical School, and promptly moved into a local church with his wife and daughter. The reason? He wanted to reduce his expenses so he could treat the homeless in Boston for free.

Watch how this man systematically has changed the medical profession by focusing on one place, Haiti, for over 20 years - and in the process has rekindled what it means to be a doctor for thousands.


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  • Greg

    What is most inspiring is that it was his "belief" in the impossible, that made it possible. You have to believe in yourself and in God's help. As for the other comment I would add: people are just as likely to die in one childbirth as they are in many (especially where there isn't sufficient medical coverage). A main reason that people have so many children is because many of them don't survive (because of lack of medical care in childhood), and because they are poor and need labor on their land and for some women, to keep a new husband who might not otherwise want to support her former children without some of his own. These are social and medical problems that a condom won't fix.

  • Ariana

    @Bill: Birth control is also taught/provided (except in some Catholic countries where it is illegal, which is another issue), but that is only one part of the solution. A woman is just as likely to die in her first or second childbirth as she is in her 12th (especially where there isn't sufficient medical coverage), and for any conversations about birth control to be transformative, we also have to fix other social/economic conditions that exist. For example, a main reason that people have so many children is because many of them don't survive (because of lack of healthcare, food, and clean water availability during their childhood), and because they need the labor on their land. After being left by their husbands, some women are also pressured into having additional children to keep a new man in their life to help support them and their prior children in societies where the women are undereducated and cannot get jobs that pay enough to stay alive. @Kathie: No, Paul was not in Haiti when the Earthquake hit, though he arrived on a plane shortly thereafter to help. He and his family live in Rwanda now (when he is home, though he travels a lot for his work), where Partners In Health (PIH) has more programs. Much of Port-au-Prince was damaged during the earthquake, but because PIH had focused on rural areas in Haiti, their facilities (there are several) were not damaged. This allowed the organization to be a first responder in helping after the disaster. More about PIH's work (in Haiti, Rwanda, and elsewhere here: http://www.pih.org/our-work ) @Timmo: PIH agrees entirely, which is why they have started programs in the US to help the situation, working in Boston and consulting other states' healthcare programs, including in NY. One of their largest US programs targets those who need it most, in Navajo Nation: http://www.pih.org/country/navajo-nation

  • toni

    I attended the Skoll world forum on Social Entrepreneurship some years ago and got chatting to a guy over drinks... a few of us left and spent the evening chatting elsewhere. The guy was sweet and lovely and the best listener. He made you feel you were the most interesting person in the world. I was horrified to find out who he was later on..... Paul Farmer. He was so humble he didn;t even mention very clearly what he did.

  • bill

    Okay, very, very inspiring. But I find missing is the teaching of birth control. The 45 year old mother with 11 children wouldn't have come close to dying with number 12, if her husband used a condom. Population control would allow quality of life to come up in Haiti. Expanding medical care is a band-aid on a HUGE gaping wound. Birth control is the long term cure.

  • kathie

    Was Paul in Haiti when the earthquake hit? Is he and his family ok? Did his clinic survive????

  • Jane Sunshine

    What a shame more doctors can't be like Paul.

  • Timmo

    You would think that this model could be used in the United States for those who can't afford health care. But then how would people get rich off of it???? Very sad.

  • Page 1

  • Join Farmer's organization, Partners in Health, in helping with the crisis in Haiti.

  • Read about life in Haiti in Farmer's biography, Mountains Beyond Mountains.

  • Next time you are faced with a large problem, actively seek to break it into smaller parts.  In this way, world health issues may be big, but 'being the change' creates a ripple that impacts everyone you touch.

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