Staff Editorial: Dr. Paul Farmer’s Convocation

Dr. Paul Farmer inspired the future doctors and activists among us while informing others on the current state of global health equity in his convocation, “In the Company of the Poor.” The ideals and strategies in the convocation were applauded by all in attendance. However, not all found his casual and personal method of speaking satisfactory; some found his jokes and anecdotes to be outright offensive.

However, Dr. Farmer’s personable style gave his message a palpably humane quality, and deflated perceptions that issues of world health are unsolvable in their seriousness. Because he could joke about his patients’ incredible progress, even when afflicted with tuberculosis, he gave the impression that no disease should be treated with discomfort. When global health equity brings life-saving care to the developing world, there is no reason to stigmatize treatable diseases. We should be glad that Dr. Farmer finds himself in a position to joke; it demonstrates that the medical community can approach issues of global health with genial hope.

Dr. Farmer explained that he would purposefully leave out content that we could read in his books. This may have been helpful for the faculty and Appletonians in attendance, as they may have the time to enjoy his writings. However, his method left us students, who find little time for “pleasure reading,” feeling as if we had missed out. Perhaps we’ll enjoy his writings once summer break arrives, but should we really have to wait nearly two months to supplement a convocations content? His anecdotes and information were inspiring, but many felt let down nonetheless.

All things considered, Dr. Farmer’s presence was an excellent addition to the convocation series. His approach to global health equity, in the context of his incredible accomplishments, gave his subject matter While he might not have garnered the same pre-convo buzz as Alison Bechdel,  his innovative approach to global health equity and his remarkable accomplishments made his convocation just as wonderful as any influential cartoonist or celebrity documentarian. While certain criticisms may be valid, Dr. Farmer clearly delivered on the series’ promise of humor, perspective and inspiration.