Paul Farmer selected as Commencement speaker

Partners in Health co-founder Paul Farmer will deliver this year’s commencement speech.

Farmer, a physician and medical anthropologist, is regarded as an expert in global public health. Partners in Health is a nonprofit organization which has worked extensively in Haiti and is committed to providing high-quality medical care to poor and marginalized communities worldwide.

Farmer also serves as the chair of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and Special Adviser to the U.N. Secretary-General on Community-based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti.

Farmer has written extensively on public health and social inequality issues. His most recent book, To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation, is an anthology of his speeches that encourages readers to work for justice and health equity.

A committee of students, faculty and staff met two years ago to consider potential commencement speakers, and Farmer was among the speakers suggested.

The selection of Farmer aligns with the college’s increased focus on public health issues, Acting President Kathy Murray wrote in an email. This shift is evidenced by the theme of this year’s International Roundtable, Global Health, and this year’s MacReads book,Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, which tells the story of Farmer’s health work worldwide.

According to Vice President of Student Affairs, Laurie Hamre, Farmer was the featured speaker at convocation four years ago, when the graduating seniors were first-years, so having Farmer speak at their closing commencement brings their time at Macalester full-circle.

“Paul Farmer and Macalester have a lot in common when it comes to caring about public health,” Murray said in a statement. “In 2008, the college added the Community and Global Health concentration, which naturally blends the liberal arts and public health. In 2010, we invited Paul to be the opening convocation speaker when these graduating seniors were first-year students. The class of 2014 will end their time at Macalester as they started it — listening to Paul Farmer speak at their commencement this coming May.”

A student speaker will be chosen for commencement in late March.

Commencement will be held on May 17, 2014.