It’s been over 3 years since I read Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World.” While I don’t remember details of the book, I do remember staying up late at night reading, unable to put the book down. I remember being pushed into a corner, forced to face the realities of the global health situation. I remember having no choice but to ask myself questions such as: “Do that many people really suffer and die needlessly?” and “Can a small group of people really make a difference on such a large scale?” and “Is health a human right? Should it be a human right?”
Paul Farmer, it seems, is a “rock star” of global health. I went to hear him speak in Chicago a few years ago, and, after waiting in line for an hour and a half, I left without shaking his hand. While it could be argued that Dr. Farmer has received a disproportionate amount of credit (fame?) for his work, few would disagree that his story inspires, and that the work of him and other pioneers of health and human rights has changed the direction of global health forever.
Paul was raised in a bus and on a boat. He went to medical school at Harvard, where he also earned a PhD in anthropology. Much of his time, however, was spent in Haiti, not Boston, where he sought to bring medicines to people dying of AIDS, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases, people others had either given up on, or never thought of. This, he would say, is a “morally clear” cause. This book chronicles his journey from idealistic medical student to a respected leader who influences policy and the way we as a global society view global health.
The title is based on a Haitian proverb: after one trial comes another, and workers in global health can attest to the truth of that statement.
I highly recommend this book. It is both entertaining, and thought-provoking.