Paul Farmer, M.D., Ph.D., Delivers Keynote Address at Annual M.D./Ph.D. Student Research Symposium

Paul Farmer, M.D., Ph.D., the noted medical anthropologist, physician and author who has pioneered strategies that bring quality health care to resource-poor settings, delivered the keynote address at the Miller School’s 4th annual M.D./Ph.D. Student Research Symposium this month.

In his March 16 talk, “Community-based care for infectious disease and the future of antibiotic resistance,” Farmer, who is chair of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School, discussed his work in Rwanda and Haiti, where he is a United Nations deputy special envoy under Special Envoy and former President Bill Clinton.

Overwhelmingly chosen as the speaker by M.D./Ph.D. students who selected epidemiology and public health as the focus for this year’s symposium, Farmer has written extensively about health and human rights, and the role of social inequalities in the distribution and outcome of infectious diseases. In his talk, Farmer emphasized the importance of community health workers, or “accompagnateurs,” as they are known in Haiti, in the delivery of effective health care.

He told the M.D/Ph.D. students, Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., and other Miller School faculty who attended his lecture at the Lois Pope LIFE Center, that his work has been enabled by basic science innovations that have led, for example, to generic antiretroviral therapies for HIV/AIDS. Today, he said, drugs are prescribed to patients in developing nations at a tiny fraction of the cost, and with equal or better efficacy, than in the U.S. and other developed nations.

Following his lecture, Farmer fielded questions from the audience and examined some of the students’ research on display at the Student Poster Session. Later in the evening, he led a two-hour mentoring session and had dinner with students and faculty from the M.D./Ph.D. program.

“Our goal was to bring in a speaker who could inspire and teach us,” said M.D./Ph.D. student Sam Beckerman, who chaired the M.D./Ph.D. Research Symposium Organizing Committee. “Dr. Farmer’s efforts are tremendous. His words serve as a reminder that thoughtful dedication can lead to positive change. It was a very successful day. ”

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