On September 5-7, with support from the Engelhard Foundation, IC 21 welcomed Paul Farmer and Ophelia Dahl, co-founders of Partners In Health (PIH), to Jackson Hole. Farmer and Dahl’s organization, founded in 1987, provides healthcare in some of the most poverty-stricken and marginalized areas of the world. Headquartered in Boston and celebrating its 25th anniversary, PIH has a budget of $100 million for 2012 and some 14,000 employees working in eleven countries around the world, including major operations in Haiti and Rwanda.
Prior to Farmer and Dahl’s visit, InterConnections 21 hosted a community discussion of Tracy Kidder’s best seller“Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World” on August 29. Dr. David Shlim, an expert in tropical and travel medicine who lives in Jackson, led a spirited but respectful debate among some 40 participants about social justice issues, particularly global healthcare and the responsibility to treat.
Then, at a sold-out event in Walk Festival Hall in Teton Village on September 6, Farmer and Dahl engaged in a public conversation about PIH’s work and their vision for the organization’s future. The conversation was facilitated by Alexandra Fuller, an acclaimed author and Jackson resident who has written extensively about Africa.
The public discussion touched on a variety of themes, including the role of gender in global health, treatment of HIV/Aids among the impoverished and PIH’s work with multidrug-resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB). It also explored the thought process behind PIH’s simple, yet profound mission statement: “We do whatever it takes to bring quality medical care to the world’s poor just as if they were a member of our own family.”
After this event, Dr. Annie Fenn commented, “Paul Farmer has always been a real-life hero for me. Hearing him and Ophelia Dahl speak about the work they do through Partners in Health is far more valuable than reading about it in a book. By bringing these accomplished humanitarians to my community, IC 21 challenged each person in that packed auditorium to ask him or herself: ‘What can I do?’”