Thursday, June 7, 2007
The Crazy Hip Blog Mamas are writing about their favorite good causes this week. Yippee!
I want to share the work of an astounding person and his life-saving organization, Partners in Health. I first encountered Dr. Paul Farmer when I read Tracy Kidder’s excellent book, Mountains Beyond Mountains. Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Kidder chronicles Farmer’s life work. He paints a portrait of a doctor who is not only a miracle worker of treating infectious disease, but also a genius of innovation and organization in breaking the cycle of poverty that makes millions vulnerable to those diseases.
Dr. Paul Farmer says he has had “the great privilege of working as a physician” in what some may call the most hopeless places on earth: Haiti, ravaged by AIDS, tuberculosis and poverty; war-torn Rwanda; the ghettos of Peru; Russian prison. Farmer’s efforts and the accomplishments of Partners in Health transform these bleak corners of the world to places of hope and possibility.
With an unflashy name, and an unconventional vision, Partners in Health seeks health and care solutions in these countries by “Whatever It Takes.” This is not the kind of medical practice we are familiar with in America with our scheduled appointments, business-like office visits, prescriptions, pharmacies, insurance cards, end of story.
Partners in Health designs care solutions that address the underlying problems that create health disasters. The system is changed, or at least circumvented, not coddled. The person’s life is treated, not just her disease.
Here is Dr. Paul Farmer with a patient at the Zanmi Lasante clinic in Cange, Haiti.
Farmer and PIH’s work is undertaken not simply out of sentiment, but from a place of empathy and solidarity. “When a person in Peru, or Siberia, or rural Haiti falls ill, PIH uses all of the means at our disposal to make thm well – from pressuring drug manufacturers, to lobbying policy makers, to providing medical care and social services. Whatever it takes. Just as we would do if a member of our own family—or we ourselves—were ill.” (PIH website, 2006)
“Tout moun se moun” say the Haitians. Everyone is human. When Randy and I went to Asia pre-kids, when we took the girls to Mexico, we would look at the sky, the light and say, “It’s another world.” Look at this little girl's face - it’s not.