Policy & Politics
Farmer Still Under Consideration for Obama Administration Position, Takes Harvard Medical School Appointment
May 28, 2009
While Partners in Health co-founder Paul Farmer is still being considered for a senior role in the Obama administration, Farmer has been appointed chair of Harvard Medical School's Department of Global Health and Social Medicine -- Jeffrey Flier, the medical school's dean, said on Wednesday -- the Boston Globe reports. Flier said that Farmer will take a leave of absence from the medical school if he is offered a position with the administration. For now, Farmer is slated to succeed the current chair, Jim Kim, on July 1 (Smith, Boston Globe, 5/28).
Partners in Health said it is pleased that Farmer is being considered along with other strong candidates. Wendy Sherman, an advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Aaron Williams, a former USAID official who is now with RTI International, are among some of the "[p]reviously rumored contenders for the USAID administrator job," according to "The Cable."
Last week, Farmer had a meeting with Clinton, Partners in Health said. Andrew Marx, a spokesman for the group, said that one of the reasons why people are "excited about the idea of Paul is that he and Partners in Health in the past have been quite prepared to challenge the accepted wisdom." According to Marx, Farmer did not buy into the conventional approach to multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in the 1990s, when WHO's official policy was not to treat people who were diagnosed with the disease because it was complicated and the costs were high.
When asked if Farmer would be interested in a USAID administrator position that has strong democracy and governance components, Marx said, "Good governance and democracy are important to us," adding that the group's work focuses on building up countries' public health systems rather than creating independent health clinics.
David Bryden, senior program policy officer for the Center for Global Health Policy, said, "There are many exciting things about Paul Farmer." According to Bryden, Farmer "has been a person with a very practical mindset, he knows how to get the job done, put aside conventional wisdom when it's wrong. ... It's really exciting" ("The Cable," Foreign Policy, 5/26).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.