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Global health equity champion Paul Farmer was a great doctor, but an even better human being

The world bids a sad farewell to Dr. Paul Farmer, champion of global health equity.

You can often tell a lot about a person's life by how the world responds to their death. Over the weekend, when I started seeing a flood of social media messages from healthcare professionals that included words like "devastated" and "gutted," it was clear that someone of influence in the medical world had passed. I'm not in healthcare, but even I recognized Dr. Paul Farmer's name, largely from this quote of his:

"The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong in the world."

After spending decades working and living in various countries around the world, making sure people in underdeveloped nations had access to quality healthcare, Dr. Farmer passed away from an acute cardiac event in his sleep in Rwanda at age 62. His death was like a seismic event in the field of global health, launching a tsunami of grief and remembrance felt around the world, from heads of state who met with him to fellow physicians who worked with him to individuals whose lives he saved.


"It is hard to find the words to express the sad news of the passing of Paul Farmer—the person, the Doctor, the philanthropist. He combined many things hard to find in one person," wrote Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda.

Farmer was physician, a professor, an anthropologist and a fierce advocate for the world's poor. In 1987, he cofounded Partners in Health, one of the world's leading global health and social justice organizations dedicated to bringing high-quality healthcare to those who need it most. Farmer's philosophy was straightforward: The fact that poor people die of illness we have effective treatments for is unacceptable. Farmer's life's work was a testament to his belief that where you live and how much money you have should not determine your right to healthcare.

But Farmer's advocacy work was also much more personal than that. He didn't preach about global equity from atop an ivory tower; he worked on the ground, at the grassroots level, doing hands-on medical care in some of the poorest parts of the world.

Much of Farmer's work involved getting effective AIDS treatments to patients in Haiti and Rwanda in the face of pushback from those who felt it was too expensive or that cultural differences would get in the way. Farmer refused to accept inequity and did everything he could to alleviate it.

“Human rights violations are not accidents; they are not random in distribution or effect," he wrote in "Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor." "Rights violations are, rather, symptoms of deeper pathologies of power and are linked intimately to the social conditions that so often determine who will suffer abuse and who will be shielded from harm.”

He was uncompromising in his belief that every human being, regardless of circumstances, should have access to the best healthcare humanity has to offer. Being born into or living in poverty does not give anyone less of a right to health, and if we have effective treatments for illness and disease, everyone should have access to them.

He touched countless lives—those he treated and those he accompanied in the field of service. Often it was people in the medical field he trained with, but he even inspired people outside of healthcare to use their privilege and know-how to better the lives of others.

When you pass away and everyone who met you has only the most glowing things to say about you, you know you've lived a good life. The world has lost not only a great doctor, but a champion of global health equity who serves as an example to us all.

"His vision for the world will live on through Partners in Health," Sheila Davis, Partners in Health CEO, wrote in a statement. "Paul taught all those around him the power of accompaniment, love for one another, and solidarity. Our deepest sympathies are with his family.”

Watch PBS News Hour's remembrance of Dr. Farmer below, and for more details of his extraordinary work, I highly recommend Tracy Kidder's profile of him in The New Yorker. The man was truly a legend of a human being in all the best ways possible.

Rest in peace, Dr. Farmer. Thanks for showing us how it's done.

Kristen Bell announces This Saves Lives new partnership with Upworthy.

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Every day, Upworthy shares stories that spotlight the very best of humanity. But if there’s one cause that unites us all, it’s solving child hunger.

In a recent poll of our followers, we found that child hunger is the issue they care about most. So today, we’re doing something about it. We’ve joined forces with humanitarian snack brand This Saves Lives to end child hunger.

This Saves Lives co-founder, actress Kristen Bell.

This Saves Lives was founded in 2013 with the goal of ending early childhood severe acute malnutrition. Its solution is simple, for every snack you purchase, they give life-saving food to a child in need. This Saves Lives has already donated over 30 million packets of lifesaving food in Haiti, Guatemala, Kenya and beyond. We hope our new partnership works to feed millions more.

“Will you join us? It’s easy and delicious.” — Kristen Bell.

Join us and explore delicious snacks that give back at thissaveslives.com/doinggoodtogether.

A 6-year-old and his dad shared a moment of emotional regulation after a toddler meltdown.

Anyone who has parented a spirited "threenager" knows how hard handling toddler tantrums can be. Parents often joke about our wee ones throwing down, because laughter is sometimes the only way to cope. But in reality, it can be extremely disturbing and distressing for the entire household when a family member carries on in a way that feels—or truly is—out of control.

Major tantrums can be especially hard for parents who didn't have good parenting examples themselves. It takes superhuman patience to be the parents we want to be some days, and none of us does it perfectly all the time. When a child is screaming and crying over something irrational and nothing seems to be working to get them to stop, exhausted parents can lose their cool and respond in ways they normally wouldn't.

That's one reason a TikTok video of a father and son captured in the aftermath of an epic toddler tantrum has caught people's attention. Many of us have been in the dad's shoes before, frazzled and shaken by the relentlessness and intensity of a 3-year-old's meltdown. And many of us have been in the son's shoes as well, witnessing a younger sibling's insanity and our parents' struggle to manage the situation.

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Sponsored

This is the most important van in NYC… and it’s full of socks.

How can socks make such a huge difference? You'd be surprised.

all photos provided by Coalition for The Homeless

Every night, the van delivers nourishment in all kinds of ways to those who need it most

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Homelessness in New York City has reached its highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Over 50,000 people sleep each night in a shelter, while thousands of others rely on city streets, the subway system and other public locations as spaces to rest.

That’s why this meal (and sock) delivery van is an effective resource for providing aid to those experiencing homelessness in New York City.

Every night of the year, from 7pm to 9:30, the Coalition for the Homeless drives a small fleet of vans to over 25 stops throughout upper and lower Manhattan and in the Bronx. At each stop, adults and families in need can receive a warm meal, a welcoming smile from volunteers, and a fresh, comfy new pair of Bombas socks. Socks may be even more important than you think.

Bombas was founded in 2013 after the discovery that socks were the #1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters.

Access to fresh, clean socks is often limited for individuals experiencing homelessness—whether someone is living on the street and walking for much of the day, or is unstably housed without reliable access to laundry or storage. And for individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness —expenses might need to be prioritized for more critical needs like food, medication, school supplies, or gas. Used socks can’t be donated to shelters for hygienic reasons, making this important item even more difficult to supply to those who need it the most.

Bombas offers its consumers durable, long-lasting and comfortable socks, and for every pair of Bombas socks purchased, an additional pair of specially-designed socks is donated to organizations supporting those in need, like Coalition for the Homeless. What started out as a simple collaboration with a few organizations and nonprofits to help individuals without housing security has quickly become a bona fide giving movement. Bombas now has approximately 3,500 Giving Partners nationwide.

Though every individual’s experience is unique, there can frequently be an inherent lack of trust of institutions that want to help—making a solution even more challenging to achieve. “I’ve had people reach out when I’m handing them a pair of socks and their hands are shaking and they’re looking around, and they’re wondering ‘why is this person being nice to me?’” Robbi Montoya—director at Dorothy Day House, another Giving Partner—told Bombas.

Donations like socks are a small way to create connection. And they can quickly become something much bigger. Right now over 1,000 people receive clothing and warm food every night, rain or shine, from a Coalition for the Homeless van. That bit of consistent kindness during a time of struggle can help offer the feeling of true support. This type of encouragement is often crucial for organizations to help those take the next difficult steps towards stability.

This philosophy helped Bombas and its abundance of Giving Partners extend their reach beyond New York City. Over 75 million clothing items have been donated to those who need it the most across all 50 states. Over the years Bombas has accumulated all kinds of valuable statistics, information, and highlights from Giving Partners similar to the Coalition for the Homeless vans and Dorothy Day House, which can be found in the Bombas Impact Report.

In the Impact Report, you’ll also find out how to get involved—whether it’s purchasing a pair of Bombas socks to get another item donated, joining a volunteer group, or shifting the conversation around homelessness to prioritize compassion and humanity.

To find out more, visit BeeBetter.com.

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