Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Leaders

Nicholas Kristof's column and blog have always proven to be excellent resources for me. Kristof has the ability to illuminate serious global issues like few others out there. He's also an ardent advocate of activism for social and political change. For these and other reasons, I wasn't surprised when I discovered Nick was named one of U.S. News and World Report's leaders of the year. One of the bright stars in a dark sky according to the editor of the publication. I've always been impressed with his ability to find new innovations (kiva.org) and give a voice to the voiceless all over the world (Darfur). It's very appropriate that he's being recognized in this way. You can watch a video about all of U.S. News and World Report's leaders including Michael J. Fox and Nancy Pelosi among others, or simply see Nicks segment.


All the Leaders

Interestingly, the article was written by Jim Yong Kim, one of the major forces behind Dr. Paul Farmer's organization Partners in Health (PIH), featured below in Tracy Kidder's book "Mountains Beyond Mountains." Both Farmer and Kim were themselves on U.S. News and World Report's list of best leaders in 2005. It's always interesting to be inspired by new people and to see how they link up with other inspiring individuals. There must be so many people out there worthy of admiration that I've never even heard of.

By the way, I read Paul Farmer's book "Pathologies of Power" after learning about him in "Mountains to Mounatains." While journalistic biographies can provide perfectly fine insight into peoples' lives, I find it's always better to hear things in the subject's own words to truly absorb their mentality. The concepts of health and human rights consume Paul Farmer and his book is a commentary about how he thinks global public health should be sytemized.

I'm a member of the book networking site called goodreads.com and on it you can list the books you've read and wish to read while rating them with between 1 and 5 stars. You can also write reviews of books featuring your reflections on their content. Since goodreads is a networking site, feel free to sign up and become my friend, just search for my email on the website - zach.rosen@gmail.com. I'm sure we've read some of the same books. I find it very interesting to see what other people rated the books I've read. I rated Pathologies of Power 4 out of 5 stars and here is my review:

"Pathologies of Power is the impassioned work of Dr. Paul Farmer (whose life was detailed in Mountains Beyond Mountains), a doctor on a mission to provide health care to the world's poor. In Pathologies of Power, Dr. Farmer discusses the systems that cause those living in poverty to suffer increased threats to their human rights, especially their health, a concept he terms "structural violence." He goes on to write that more must be done than simply researching and recognizing these human rights abuses, action or "pragmatic solidarity" must be undertaken to relieve the stresses endured by the poor. Dr. Farmer's theorhetcial background is based on Liberation Theology, which describes not only seeking to provide treatment to the poor, but preferential treatment. Too many projects are limited by talk of sustainablility and cost-efficacy, Farmer argues, and ideas based solely on prevention shamefully ignore those that are already ill. Beyond plans of giving charity or promoting development, to truly change the lives of the poor for the better, we must seek social justice. While I don't agree with all of Farmer's points, I side with him in many respects and I admire his serious approach to dealing with issues of human rights. There are many short poems and quotes interspersed throughout the book as well that act as further evidence in conveying his message, that the voices of the poor are being silenced in many places and we can stand for that no longer."

I'm not sure if that makes anyonme want to read the book or not, but regardless, see you on goodreads.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

New Mountains

I just finished the book "Mountains Beyond Mountains" about an extraordinary man named Paul Farmer. The book, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, details the life and achievments of Mr. Farmer, a doctor who has dedicated his life to providing healthcare to the poor. Dr. Farmer has worked tirelessly for the past 20+ years to improve the standards of living for the global poor by providing them with healthcare, regardless of cost. While the majority of his work has taken place in Haiti, Farmer's organization, Partners in Health, has since expanded its efforts to Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Lesotho and the United States. Farmer's passion to provide his patients with adequate care in the most adverse conditons is elegantly expressed by Kidder in the book. Farmer has no problem taking a 7 hour hike up a series of rocky hills to check to see if a patient has been taking his medicine. I found this book to be an excellent introduction into health literature, a realm which I hope to further explore in the future as I anticipate working in the global health sector.

The most enlightening part about reading "Mountains Beyond Mountains" was my first ever contemplation of actually becoming a doctor myself. I'm aware of the commitment of time, energy and financial resources required to become a doctor, but I've finally begun to take my life seriously enough to consider medicine as a viable option. It feels like a daunting task to become a doctor, but the skills and knowledge I would gain would be invaluable resources that would be more practical and satisfying than those of other fields. Can you imagine a job in which one could derive more pleasure than a career that involves saving lives? Having developed a perspective in which I view life through a global lens thanks to my education, I have already personally dedicated my life to bringing global inequalities to equilibrium. Will my avenue for achieving that goal be with healthcare? We'll have to wait and see.

Enjoy this short clip of Dr. Farmer