Sunday, May 4, 2008

Pioneer Profile: Dr Paul Farmer, Dr Jim Kim

Another segment I plan to start will be called "Pioneer Profiles," where I will quite simply try to profile a pioneer of technology, social entrepreneurship, and/or education in the developing world.

Let's start with physicians Paul Farmer and Jim Kim.

Dr Jim Kim (source: Harvard University)

Dr Paul Farmer with a 15 y/o boy in haiti (photo source: Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston)

I came across their amazing story a few years back, when I was sitting in on a seminar series on AIDS in Africa. Nearly all the best presenters in the seminar were in some way affiliated with Partners in Health, a relatively obscure public health program that has revolutionized healthcare in the developing world. Turns out it was started by Paul and Jim, and two other friends.

Paul and Jim's least impressive feature is that they are both M.D, Ph.Ds from Harvard, and MacArthur Genius Fellows. What is most impressive is how they've revolutionized treatment against two of the developing world's most dangerous killers - multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB) and HIV. Their holistic, sustainable approach to public health has really won people over. PIH runs a few hospitals and medical programs in select countries (Haiti, Rwanda, Peru, Russia, to name a few) for the most disenfranchised. All medical treatment is provided free. The hospitals are also built on local capacity, i.e. they try to hire and train as many doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff from within the country as possible, both to encourage and keep local resources in the country, and to promote sustainability of the clinics/hospitals. The result is a largely functional, resourceful, and knowledgeable team providing effective healthcare. Now other countries are turning to them for advice on building up their own infrastructure.

Rather than talk more about them, I'll let you loose on a few resources. CBS 60 minutes did a great profile on Paul Farmer today (bel0w):

In addition, you should read the book on the Paul Farmer and PIH called Mountains Beyond Mountains, penned by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder.

A few years ago, PBS did a brilliant 6-hour award winning documentary series called Rx for Survival, an absolute MUST SEE for anyone interested in healthcare technology in the developing world. Filmed across several countries, the series identifies pioneering technology and health care approaches that are saving millions of lives. You can see a biography and videos of Jim Kim, and of Paul Farmer.

There's a lot more about both on the web. Just google their names and you'll have enough to keep you going for days!

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