Farmer awarded Mendel Medal

Madeline Dorger

He is simple. There are no mysteries about Dr. Paul Farmer. In his lectures and in his biography “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” which describes his work on poverty and medical care, there is no doubting what Dr. Farmer wants. He wants people to give back to the poor what belongs to the poor; he wants to end poverty.

It is daunting, but for Farmer, there is no reason why it cannot be done. The world has enough resources – enough food, money and medicine – for people to live more than decent lives.

According to Farmer, this fact keeps us from making excuses; it makes us responsible for the poverty that exists in the world. For all those who share his goals and for a great many who do not, Farmer offers a guide to global change.

He began by changing perspectives. For many years the World Health Organization deemed the treatment of tuberculosis and the more resilient sibling of TB, multi-drug resistant TB, impossible. It was not cost-effective. But the people Farmer was treating in Haiti and Peru were dying of TB.

He refused to peer into the faces of his patients and tell them they were untreatable because an international health organization had decided they were not worth the cost to cure simply because they were citizens of a developing country. Through his dedication, Paul Farmer has made it possible to treat these forgotten individuals. He worked to lower the cost of drugs and bring awareness to governments, international organizations and people everywhere, calling on humanity to participate in a global community and end the inequalities of poverty.

Such a global champion does not go unnoticed. Dr. Farmer has been the recipient of many awards, including the MacArthur “Genius Award” in 1993 and the Heinz Award in 2003. On Saturday, Villanova University will be adding the Mendel Medal to the long list of these accolades.

The Mendel Medal honors an outstanding scientist whose life has been devoted to worthy causes.

Since the work of Paul Farmer has often directly coincided with Catholic Social Teaching, a strong theme in many Villanova theology and peace and justice courses, he was an obvious choice for the award.

The University was host to Farmer on campus and present two lectures by him on Saturday. The first lecture, at 11 a.m. in the Jake Nevin Fieldhouse, will be focused on his humanitarian work. The second, at 2:30 in the Connelly Cinema, will focus on medicine.

Some say one person can’t change the world. Paul Farmer is a man who does.