Narath Carlile in Articles · 3 minute read

Mentor, North Star, Difference-Maker

A dedication to Paul Farmer

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One day, when you look back on your life and all of your most important achievements on this planet, what will that list contain?

Whenever I think about this question, I think about Paul Farmer. To me, his life embodies the ultimate in important achievements. I suspect, though, that he himself felt his efforts were never enough. Even so, Paul seemed to have boundless energy - and time - for things that mattered most to him.

In his introduction to Paul’s book To Repair the World, Jonathan Weigel makes the comment that “we can’t suppress the feeling that [Paul] figured out what it means to do the right thing, to make the world a better place. It’s inspiring. It’s also uncomfortable because that right thing rarely resembles what we do every day.”

Because of Paul, I’m a physician today at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston. I was in medical school when I first read about him in the book Mountains Beyond Mountains, where author Tracy Kidder tells the story of Paul Farmer’s vision and life journey.

It was impossible not to be inspired, so I set my sights on doing my residency at the same hospital, specifically in the Global Health and Social Equity track which Paul led. It was there, from 2009 to 2014 that Paul Farmer was one of my mentors, although he was a rare bird to see in person; more often than not, he was working at a global site or simply moving mountains.

After a decade of working in global health, social equity and projects to improve healthcare delivery, I’m in awe of the sheer impact of Paul Farmer. He made a big difference. I’m also in awe of the millions of people - in all kinds of professions - who want to repair the world. I work with lots of them every day, whether small-business startups, non-profit organizations, or healthcare workers. The passion is inspiring, and it’s also discomforting. The skyrocketing burnout rates are what now drive me, because if we don’t collectively do something to change how we support the change-makers, burnout threatens to rob our world of many essential visionaries.

I dedicate this piece to Paul, who has inspired so many to work to repair the world. My mission is to help them to thrive and flourish in theirs.

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