Who is 2012 Commencement speaker Paul Farmer?

    "The man who would cure the world,” or Paul Farmer, will speak at the Commencement for the Class of 2012, University officials announced Jan. 30.

    Farmer, a physician and anthropologist who started Partners in Health, a nonprofit organization to bring healthcare to underdeveloped nations, is familiar to NU students, as he was the subject of Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, last year's One Book One Northwestern selection. Farmer is a household name in the realm of global health, one synonymous with the ideal he and his partners espouse: Regardless of country of origin, healthcare is a right.

    Weinberg senior Neal Emery is inspired by this conviction and cites Farmer's work as the reason he got into global health. Emery has seen Farmer speak twice — one time he ran into him in a hallway at the Partners in Health Symposium in Boston and talked to him in person. Upon hearing the news that NU selected Farmer, Emery was excited, and he sees the decision as one that can bridge gaps between different populations of students on campus. 

    "He’s one of the few people who really transcends a lot of the communities at Northwestern," Emery said. "He started a nonprofit — and a really successful nonprofit, which appeals to a lot of students' interests at the school."

    Farmer's work transcends the bounds of categorization: He doesn't only work in anthropology or the medical field or humanities. He also brings a perspective that is ostensibly different from last year's Commencement speaker, School of Communication alumnus Stephen Colbert. Although students may not watch Farmer on Hulu on a regular basis, Emery said he thinks Farmer's speech will resonate with members of the Class of 2012.

    "I think he’s someone that everyone can kind of learn from," Emery said. "But then again, I happen to be lucky that one of my heroes was chosen as a Commencement speaker."


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