Dr. Paul Farmer is an amazing man. In this well-written book by a Harvard journalist, we read the readable story of "Dr. Paul." While a student at Harvard Medical School, Farmer opened a clinic for the poor in Haiti. He endures what many of us would find to be horrible conditions to provide great medical care to those who can pay nothing. Farmer also shows how one man can take on the WHO to treat those with Multi-Drug Resistant TB. Fair Warning: reading this book will make you feel you do too little for others.
An excellent look at Dr. Paul Farmer and his international health work centered around Haiti, Peru and Russia, with emphasis on multiple disease resistant TB. I requested this book because I admire and enjoy the work of Tracy Kidder, but found Farmer to be facinating.
loved this book, very inspiring. He is amazing to read about, and it's very inspiring how Dr Farmer gives his whole life to helping the people of haiti and improving healthcare. I highly recommend this book.
This book moved me, fascinated me, made me feel more than a little selfish. Now I buy it for all my students who are considering medicine (and Rural Studio books for all my students considering architecture).
I love Dr. Farmer's work and appreciate learning more about PIH. However, this is not a biography. This is an ode to a person who has the guts to live by the standards he believes in. The author is too involved with the subject to present any kind of objectivity. He often speaks as if he believes himself a lesser being than Dr. Farmer. The entire book feels like Kidder relaying a wonderful anecdote. I did not see much evidence of him looking through sources other than the trips he tagged along in or the interviews he made, interviewing people other than Farmer's friends and allies. Makes it an easy read...but I wouldn't assume it is entirely accurate.
Worth reading because you believe in what Farmer, Dahl and Kim are trying to do and having one side of the story is enough for you.
One of the most moving books I have ever read. The dedication of Dr. Farmer is well-documented thanks to Tracy Kidder's profile in this book. I will read over and over...so that I do not forget that one person's efforts can and do make a difference.
Review first published on my blog: http://memoriesfrombooks.blogspot.com/2012/01/mountains-beyond-mountains-quest-of-dr.html
Mountains Beyond Mountains - The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Would Cure The World is the inspiring story of Dr. Paul Farmer, an American medical anthropologist and physician. He is one of the founder of Partners In Health. The organization began in an effort to bring medical facilities to the poor in the central plains of Haiti. It has grown into a worldwide health organization. It made possible the treatment of diseases like AIDS and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis for the poorest of the populations in many parts of the world including Haiti, Peru, and Russia.
This book tells the story of Dr. Farmer's passion and his work. In addition, it tells the story of Dr. Farmer, the individual as he struggles to balance personal and family needs with the needs of his work.
The book, as a book, accomplished what it set out to do. It brought to life an inspirational story. The individuals come to life. Some of the medical cases are heart wrenching. Some of the situations described can be beyond understanding if you have never experienced a part of the world where such poverty exists. I have to say I did skim through parts. I was awed by the magnitude of what they overcame and the magnitude of what they accomplished. I got that understanding even while skimming the book.
As a story, the book is inspirational. It reminds us of the amazing things one person - or a small group of dedicated people - can accomplish. Dr. Farmer and his colleagues have truly changed the lives of the population they serve. They started with the knowledge that something needed to be done. And they did it. Many times, they did it at the expense of their personal lives. They continue to work for their mission day in and day out following Dr. Farmer's philosophy that "the only real nation is humanity."
A narrative of the life of Dr. Paul Farmer - gives insight into the man, into developing world health problems, into the global crisis in AIDS, TB, poverty - especially in Haiti and gives information about the organization "Partners in Health" which is Dr. Farmer's organization. Excellent writing - reads like a novel and full of interesting insights.
Tracy Kidder opens up Dr. Farmer and his lifes' work with great detail without bias. The author becomes a believer in Dr. Farmer's cause as will you also once you have been absorbed in his quest to help the ones who can not help themselves. He makes the mountains he encounters into mole hills even with the onslaught of more mountains. A long the way you also learn what MDR TB is and why we all need to help in this fight. Informative, well written, now I am better enlighted by having read it, so will you.
Tracy Kidder writes about the work of Dr Paul Farmer, a doctor who goal in life is to wipe out infectious diseases.
Dr Farmer's story drew me in and I had a hard time putting the book down. He went to Haiti and used the most basic methods to help irradicate infectioius diseases in the poor areas -- like helping them with sanitary bathroom facilities and encouraging sanitary habits when handling food and people who are sick. He offers his services to all, no matter what the person can or can't pay.
He also goes after the big pharmacy companies to provide the drugs they have at a reasonable cost so they can be used by the people he is serving.
This book made me feel like the little things we do can make big differences and it also made me mad as hell a American pharmaceutical companies.
This is a fascinating look at Paul Farmer, a medical doctor and anthropologist who opened a clinic in a remote area of Haiti and progressed to the founding of the non-profit Partners in Health, active in Haiti, Peru, Russia, and other countries. Kidder traces his life from what most of us would consider a disadvantaged childhood, his BA from Duke, and onwards.
Paul Farmer began traveling to Haiti while still a student. Touched by what he saw, he became inspired - and perhaps obsessed - with the need to improve the world, beginning with one area at a time. Clearly passionate and persuasive, he persuades others to fund his clinic, and he also places the proceeds from his own MacArthur Award into the effort. His work expands over the years to many countries and along the way his expertise deepens.
Farmer is not a saint. He's driven, he's passionate, and he's single-minded. He basically has no personal life. Now renowned for his work in TB and AIDS, he is less concerned about the sustainability of his efforts than he is for the single patient in his care. Most will feel guilty when we read his book, and some may choose to donate to Partners in Health; others may be inspired to find a piece of their own world where they can make a difference.
The author is clearly a friend to Farmer; while interviewing many individuals for this book, viewpoints of detractors are not given much space. But this is a very readable, worthwhile effort.
In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life's calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Tracy Kidder's magnificent account shows how one person can make a difference in solving global health problems through clear-eyed understanding of the interaction of politics, wealth, social systems and disease. Profound and powerful, this book takes you from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba and Russia as Farmer changes people's minds through his dedication to the philosophy that "the only real nation is humanity."
A true life fairy tale that inspires you to want to believe in happy endings. Stunning!
Youre not supposed to love this book. To do so would be to fall to the seduction of blind idolatry, and Farmer, the books subject, even points out that this is not his goal: the goal isnt to convince more people to BE like Farmer, but rather to think like him, to believe in what he believes. As a fiction reader/writer who only sporadically dabbles in nonfiction, I find it hard to consolidate the opinions of the two types of readers in me: the one who reads to learn the craft of writing, and the one who wants to be moved by new, eye-opening reading experiences.
Research aside, Kidders writing style and his way of creating characters is simplistic. He basically throws a million details, PIH-er vocabulary, Farmer quotes, and anecdotes at you and essentially commands you to be convincingly immersed in their world. And, if you dont actually feel immersed, because the words and details on the page are basically deliberately arrhythmic, Kidder and Farmer will give you the steady are-you-stupid stareyou dont get it, do you, because youre not smart enough to get it, you will never be able to truly understand and get the inner workings of Farmers mind and soul.
Actually, Kidder addresses this in his book. I think its partly the reason for why he actually writes himself as a character into his book: because Paul Farmer is so easy to deify, with his nerdily bemused made-up vocabulary and quips, his grand visions, his inexplicable endless resource of energy, that we mere mortal readers need someone in the book with whom we can connect and empathize. Kidder is not especially likable in the book: he essentially takes on the role of Devils advocate and asks Farmer all the questions that we readers are thinking but would never dare admit that were thinking: Can you really do what you envision? How can you exist without a solid flow of monetary support? Is it really worthwhile for you to use your time and money to help someone with just a 5% chance of living past age thirty? Kidder places himself as the dumb normal man because thats how were all feeling in the shadow of Farmer. And this leads to one of the ongoing emotional contradictions we have regarding this book: Farmer makes us feel guilty for not ourselves being a part of his cause, and then we feel angry that Farmer is making ourselves feel guilty by example, etc.
The debate over the best way to portray Farmer and his work aside (is a print book, with all its limitations and the conscious/subconscious selectivity of language, the best medium through which to convey Farmers beliefs and dreams?), the books message is one that grows on you, to ultimately become something you go back to, again and again. It doesnt smack you over the head with itself: for most of the book, I was still struggling between what it is that Farmer and Kidder were trying to make me feel, and to believe in the feasibility of Farmers vision, not only as a reader believes in a books world but as a frustrated individual believes in the visions place in our real world.
There are many different things that many different readers can take away from MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS. You could feel ridicule masking insecurity over Farmers and PIHs actions. You could take the book as an inspirational call to armsand then be stranded because you dont know how to make the best use of your arms. You can say, thats nice, this is a nice biography about a nice, good man, and then move on to the next book in your TBR pile. (The bookFarmer and Kidderalso preempts any seemingly original emotional and intellectual responses to itself because it works all these different possible responses into its narrative. The self-awareness of this book is super annoying at times!)
What I took away from this book, however, is this: the world is a sucky place, and most of the suckiness is the result of ourhumansinterferences with the natural state of things, by imposing structures and systems on everything and creating disparities. As Farmer says, suffering is a human creation, and then we devise ways to ease that suffering, but only for the people who contributed to the creation of that suffering in the first place. And its really easy for us individuals to feel frustrated and helpless in the face of such systems that claim, but fail, to benefit humanity (see: the big mess that is the United States congressional system).
But rather than wrap ourselves in that helplessness and frustration, we should believe, first and foremost, in the power of the individual to help others, and then in the power of a collective of like-minded individuals to enact even greater changes, essentially beating the system and establishing their own system that is based upon actual observation and experience at the individual level. This is why Farmer continues to trek seven hours into the central plateau of Haiti in order to call on just one patient: without that focus on the individual, PIHs system will become like every other system in history and the world that has failed in its missives, tangled up in bureaucracy and financial economy and the like.
Focusing on the individual is doable, and essential, and I can do it, and you can do it, and everyone can do it, and this dream that the world can be an inexplicably better place, however opaque the path there is.