BLACKSBURG, Va., March 31, 2009 – Noted anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer, cofounder of the international health and social justice organization Partners in Health (PIH), will speak at Virginia Tech on April 27 as part of the university's Distinguished Speaker Program.
Farmer will speak on “A call to global citizenship and service: partnerships that make a difference.” He will also meet with Virginia Tech groups conducting service projects in Haiti.
Farmer’s work is the subject of Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World. The Pulitzer Prize-winning work by Tracy Kidder was the 2008-09 Virginia Tech Common Book. The biographical account follows Farmer to Haiti, Cuba, Peru, and Russia to help victims of poverty and disease. The Common Book Project website describes the book as “unique in that it shows a real-life example of someone making a difference.”
Farmer’s work has been honored by a number of philanthropic and humanitarian organizations, including a 1993 “genius award” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, and the American Medical Association’s International Physician Award. He is currently the Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard University and an attending physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“We are thrilled to have Paul Farmer come to speak. He is an inspirational figure,” said Mark McNamee, senior vice president and provost.
PIH is a non-profit health care organization that describes its mission as providing a “preferential option for the poor.” Founded in 1987 by Farmer and four colleagues, PIH forges links with local organizations for treatment of disease, especially tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. PIH has clinics in Lesotho and Malawi, and has collaborated on projects in Mexico and Guatemala.
During his visit to Virginia Tech, Farmer will meet with members of the Virginia Tech chapter of Engineers Without Borders who are working to construct an outpatient clinic in Haiti, and Bridge for Haiti, a student-led group working to build a bridge that will provide access to a PIH clinic.
“I am extremely excited by the prospect of his visit,” said Theo Dillaha, faculty advisor for Engineers Without Borders. “Reading Mountains Beyond Mountains and learning what can be accomplished through resolve and determination has been an inspiration to the group. The Virginia Tech chapter of Engineers Without Borders now has more than 50 students, faculty members and off-campus volunteers working to design a clinic and raise over half a million dollars to construct it. We look forward to the day when Paul can dedicate it.”
Farmer will speak on April 27 at 8 p.m. in Burruss Auditorium on the Virginia Tech campus. His topic is, “A call to global citizenship and service: Partnerships that make a difference.” Tickets are required and seating is reserved, but admission is free. Tickets will be available at the University Unions and Student Activities ticket office in Squires Student Center starting the week of April 6.
Susanna Rinehart, director of Education for Diversity and Inclusion, is leading the university-wide planning committee to bring Farmer to Virginia Tech. His visit is sponsored by the Office of the Provost; the Office of Outreach and International Affairs; the Office of International Research, Education and Development; Engineers Without Borders; the College of Architecture and Urban Studies; the Graduate School; the Office of Equity and Inclusion; the Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships; and the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine.