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Tracy Kidder is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the author of the bestsellers The Soul of a New Machine, House, Among Schoolchildren, and Home Town. He has been described by the Baltimore Sun as the “master of the non-fiction narrative.” This powerful and inspiring new book shows how one person can make a difference, as Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is in love with the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.

At the center of Mountains Beyond Mountains stands Paul Farmer. Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, world-class Robin Hood, Farmer was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. This magnificent book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and it also shows how a meaningful life can be created, as Farmer—brilliant, charismatic, charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston and the mountains of Haiti—blasts through convention to get results.

Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that "the only real nation is humanity" - a philosophy that is embodied in the small public charity he founded, Partners In Health. He enlists the help of the Gates Foundation, George Soros, the U.N.’s World Health Organization, and others in his quest to cure the world. At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope, and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”: as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.

Mountains Beyond Mountains unfolds with the force of a gathering revelation,” says Annie Dillard, and Jonathan Harr says, “[Farmer] wants to change the world. Certainly this luminous and powerful book will change the way you see it.”
Published: Random House Publishing Group an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on Sep 9, 2003
ISBN: 9781588363343
List price: $11.99
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Paul Farmer is a rather unique man. He started a hospital in Haiti where they have one of the lowest life expectancies in the Western Hemisphere (~50 years). He teaches at Brigham and Women's in Boston for a small fraction of the year, then donates the rest of his time to Haiti, walking for hours to visit patients and funneling charitable funding towards buying AIDS and TB medications for the people there. He now teaches in Boston, practices in Boston, Haiti, Peru, and Siberia, and works on health policy to change the bureaucratic obstacles to improving health for the poor. He is utterly tireless, doesn't sleep, doesn't hardly see his family, and doesn't seem to mind. He writes his full paycheck over to his organization every year. The patient is paramount. It is a martyr's job, but effective. Here's one example:In Peru they started a program to treat multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). At one point they couldn't get funding because the WHO kept saying "hey, it's too expensive!" while the pharmaceutical companies kept saying, "well, there's no market!" No market for expensive drugs whose patents had already expired because the thousands of people with MDR-TB did't have enough money to buy them. Solution? They went to the pharmaceutical companies and said "Hey, we'll buy your drugs if we can negotiate a lower price!" Result? 97% decrease in cost. Basically, instead of leaving the last 10% to die in ignominy they found a way to save every one, or at least every one that could be saved with the best medicines in the world (not just the best medicines in Haiti/Peru/Siberia). And now *voila* treating MDR is no longer beyond WHO's funding. How easy was that?! In some ways Farmer's story is inspiring. Here he is giving every waking hour to his work. If you say you can't ask that of everyone, he'll just say "Why not?" While there is an inequity in the world he figures everyone should spend every moment working to change that. It's a hard business model to sell but obviously has the moral high ground. He feels that you have to try to save every patient, even if that means spending $25,000 on drugs, even if that means medevacing a kid to Boston MGH to have open heart surgery. And then you start to think, well, that's morally pure, but I'm not entirely sure that works. He is anti-utilitarian. There's no such thing as the greater good. Everyone's good is just as great. In his mind, you can't say "don't spend this money on this child because you could be providing pre-natal care to 150 women." And I wonder at that. I'm sorry, but I'm a statistician, not a clinician, and I wonder. I cannot deny that his pressure on drug companies for TB medications has been a win-win situation. Will that same tactic bring down the cost of medical procedures, too? By providing all possible medical technology to everyone in his care, does that mean that eventually all medical care can be supplied to everyone. Is that even possible? (You can see I'd make a terrible saint. I ask the question "Is that possible?")His work obviously makes me question myself and how much I would give. I couldn't work the way he works. I am willing to spend years of my life abroad, but not the majority of my years. I am willing to take less pay in order to do greater good, but not no pay. I am willing to work overtime, but I still want to be able to see my family from time to time. That's just my choice. Clearly, he has made the right choice for him. He has a calling, as few people have. I can only hope that I find something that suits me and to which I am suited even half as well as he is suited to be a jet-setting innovative rural doctor. And I cannot deny that there is a lot of work to be done. There is poverty and there is abject misery throughout this world. Now I just have to figure out how I, not being Paul Farmer, can help.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
An interesting glimpse into the life of a very selfless being. I am amazed by this Farmer guy. We need to clone him many times over. The book is a great read, until the end. The book attempts to close with a real life anecdote, but it doesn't fit in the chronology of the story. If I was Kidder, I'd have a hard time closing this story too.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Before I read this, Paul Farmer was already one of my heroes. After I read it...well, how can you respect a person more. Farmer epitomizes selflessness. Kidder's writing explores the complexity that is Dr. Farmer and what makes him do what he does. The way that Kidder writes his interactions with Farmer is what makes this book so amazing.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

Paul Farmer is a rather unique man. He started a hospital in Haiti where they have one of the lowest life expectancies in the Western Hemisphere (~50 years). He teaches at Brigham and Women's in Boston for a small fraction of the year, then donates the rest of his time to Haiti, walking for hours to visit patients and funneling charitable funding towards buying AIDS and TB medications for the people there. He now teaches in Boston, practices in Boston, Haiti, Peru, and Siberia, and works on health policy to change the bureaucratic obstacles to improving health for the poor. He is utterly tireless, doesn't sleep, doesn't hardly see his family, and doesn't seem to mind. He writes his full paycheck over to his organization every year. The patient is paramount. It is a martyr's job, but effective. Here's one example:In Peru they started a program to treat multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). At one point they couldn't get funding because the WHO kept saying "hey, it's too expensive!" while the pharmaceutical companies kept saying, "well, there's no market!" No market for expensive drugs whose patents had already expired because the thousands of people with MDR-TB did't have enough money to buy them. Solution? They went to the pharmaceutical companies and said "Hey, we'll buy your drugs if we can negotiate a lower price!" Result? 97% decrease in cost. Basically, instead of leaving the last 10% to die in ignominy they found a way to save every one, or at least every one that could be saved with the best medicines in the world (not just the best medicines in Haiti/Peru/Siberia). And now *voila* treating MDR is no longer beyond WHO's funding. How easy was that?! In some ways Farmer's story is inspiring. Here he is giving every waking hour to his work. If you say you can't ask that of everyone, he'll just say "Why not?" While there is an inequity in the world he figures everyone should spend every moment working to change that. It's a hard business model to sell but obviously has the moral high ground. He feels that you have to try to save every patient, even if that means spending $25,000 on drugs, even if that means medevacing a kid to Boston MGH to have open heart surgery. And then you start to think, well, that's morally pure, but I'm not entirely sure that works. He is anti-utilitarian. There's no such thing as the greater good. Everyone's good is just as great. In his mind, you can't say "don't spend this money on this child because you could be providing pre-natal care to 150 women." And I wonder at that. I'm sorry, but I'm a statistician, not a clinician, and I wonder. I cannot deny that his pressure on drug companies for TB medications has been a win-win situation. Will that same tactic bring down the cost of medical procedures, too? By providing all possible medical technology to everyone in his care, does that mean that eventually all medical care can be supplied to everyone. Is that even possible? (You can see I'd make a terrible saint. I ask the question "Is that possible?")His work obviously makes me question myself and how much I would give. I couldn't work the way he works. I am willing to spend years of my life abroad, but not the majority of my years. I am willing to take less pay in order to do greater good, but not no pay. I am willing to work overtime, but I still want to be able to see my family from time to time. That's just my choice. Clearly, he has made the right choice for him. He has a calling, as few people have. I can only hope that I find something that suits me and to which I am suited even half as well as he is suited to be a jet-setting innovative rural doctor. And I cannot deny that there is a lot of work to be done. There is poverty and there is abject misery throughout this world. Now I just have to figure out how I, not being Paul Farmer, can help.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
An interesting glimpse into the life of a very selfless being. I am amazed by this Farmer guy. We need to clone him many times over. The book is a great read, until the end. The book attempts to close with a real life anecdote, but it doesn't fit in the chronology of the story. If I was Kidder, I'd have a hard time closing this story too.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Before I read this, Paul Farmer was already one of my heroes. After I read it...well, how can you respect a person more. Farmer epitomizes selflessness. Kidder's writing explores the complexity that is Dr. Farmer and what makes him do what he does. The way that Kidder writes his interactions with Farmer is what makes this book so amazing.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Excellent story that seems to capture the real Paul Farmer -- well written, engaging, nothing sentimental or maudlin, gives the background that explains much of current work that Partners in Health does in the world today. Paul Farmer is seeable and hearable on YouTube videos which adds a very sweet dimension to the book.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book was a loan. It is a worthwhile and absorbing read, mostly because of Kidder's writing ability. The book exists on three distinct levels: the first is as a biography of an interesting man-Paul Farmer, the second is a story about Haiti, the abuse of both it's people and it's land over time and how that creates the modern morass, and lastly is the story of how Kidder became a Farmer fan or how i came to write this book. The book is tying these three levels, these distinct threads into an engrossing and fascinating story so that by the end you too are a Farmer fan.Why do some, a pityfully few people, seem to do something with their lives, seem to matter in the long run, seem to get useful work out of their time here that others just seem to waster and squander? Is it technique, is it passion, is it ability and in their genes, is it just restless energy? The book offers a few insights into this complex and important topic. But mostly it is a straightforward biography of Paul Farmer, from an unusual childhood to travelling often from Haiti to Boston, from the bottom to the top of the social and material world, about a dichotomy expressed in the life of one man: love of these poor people and love of modern medicine and what it can do for patients as real people.I appreciated the book, i can hope to read more like this, i can never hope to be like him and will remain a spectator of such people, who seem to exist on a plane of their own. I am glad they live among us and i would believe that their presence blesses the rest of us. But i will remain in the bleachers cheering them onward, perhaps i can write a few small checks to their works but i will always see them from afar. Kidder does all us avid readers a great service by writing down what he saw and heard, thanks.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I read this as a Kindle ebook.This is the true story of a doctor who sets up a clinic in a remote area of Haiti and sucessfully treats AIDS and TB patients. His methods are so successful that they are adopted by the World Health Organization.
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