Mountains Beyond Mountains: What Paul Farmer Teaches Us About Passion

“I’m going to build my own f—ing hospital. And there will be none of that there, thank you.” 51cTq8IIW L._SL160_

Dr Paul Farmer can get testy at times. He helped raise money to get blood bank equipment at a rural hospital in Haiti. He was pissed when he found out the hospital was going to charge patients in advance to access it, so he takes matters into his own hands. He states earlier in the book, “I”m an action kind of guy.”

And yes, he does build his own f—ing hospital. And he does not charge patients for it’s services. The story is told in Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.

The book illuminates the many journeys of Dr Farmer and his work to serve the poorest in the world. We see him go from Alabama, to Harvard Medical School, to rural Haiti, south to Peru and across the Atlantic to Russia to name just a few destinations. But the book, like it’s primary subject, is anchored in Haiti, the western hemisphere’s poorest country.

Dr Farmer’s quest is an inspiring story for anyone, but it has special resonance for those interested in medicine. Reading the book for a second time recently has re-oriented my reasons for going into medicine. I remembered why I wanted to be a physician and travel.

Everyone goes into medicine for different reasons. I am in no place to judge whether certain motivations are superior to others. I only know what makes sense to me. And to me using my knowledge and influence as a physician to serve the poor, well it fits with who I am.

I want to serve those in need. I want to increase access to vaccines, antibiotics and prevention programs. I want to study global public health and make a contribution. I am under no illusion that I want to do this because I am some selfless human being. I want to do it because I think it will be fulfilling and it fits with my faith background.

While Paul Farmer is an inspiration to me, I do not wish to model my life after him. His life really serves best as an example of someone who cares deeply about people and translates that intense passion into meaningful work. And that is something I will always support.

Read more about the organization Farmer helped to start, Partners In Health. They are doing great work in Haiti.

Has anyone else read Mountains Beyond Mountains? What did you think?