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Founding director of Partners in Health to receive Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind from Wofford College 

Medical anthoropologist and physician Paul Farmer will speak at Wofford and receive the Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind on March 27, 2007.SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Medical anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer, founding director of the international charity organization Partners in Health, will receive the Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind and an honorary degree from Wofford College on Tuesday, March 27.

Farmer will speak at the 11 a.m. convocation honoring him.  The event, which will be free and open to the public, will be held in Leonard Auditorium in Wofford’s Main Building.

Farmer also will be involved in a roundtable discussion at 9 a.m. in the Verandah Room, where members of the audience will have an opportunity to ask questions and comment from the floor.  This event also is free and open to the public.

The Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind represents the highest ideals that the Wofford community espouses, and it carries with it an honorary degree, a citation and a $10,000 cash award, made possible by Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix Corp.

Farmer is an attending physician in infectious diseases and chief of the Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.  He has written extensively about health and human rights, and has received numerous national and international awards and recognitions for his work.  He was the subject of Pulitzer Prizewinner Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World” (Random House, 2003). (A full biography is provided below.)

Sandor Teszler was born in the old Austro-Hungarian empire, where he was ostracized from childhood not so much because he was a Jew, but because he was afflicted with club feet that required many painful operations.  He is said to have loved music, especially opera, from an early age.  Later in life, he befriended his fellow exile, composer Bela Bartok.

During World War II, a successful businessman in textiles, Teszler and his family – his wife and two sons – were taken to a death house on the Danube, where victims were systematically beaten to death.  They were prepared to die, prepared to take a poison capsule that would allow them to escape further torture, but they were saved when one of their tormentors inexplicably advised them not to take the pills, saying “Help is on the way.”  Shortly thereafter, they were rescued by an official from the Swiss embassy.

Coming to the Carolinas, Teszler again joined the textile industry, and was one of the first to desegregate his mills.

In the last decade of his life, Teszler graced the Wofford campus, “attending so many classes that the faculty, acknowledging a wisdom and experience greater than their own, honored themselves by making him an adjunct professor,” Wofford President Benjamin B. Dunlap wrote in a tribute to Teszler that appeared in the Charlotte Observer in August 2000.

To Wofford students, Teszler was known simply as “Opi,” Hungarian for grandfather.  The college library bears his name.

“With the Sandor Teszler Award, we seek to commemorate the life and career of Sandor Teszler, who was for many years associated with Wofford and who in his own life and career embodied the ideals of the award being made in his name,” Dunlap says.  “We also seek to celebrate the contributions of a figure of both national and international renown.  It is our intention to assure that everyone in the Wofford College community is fully aware of the recipient’s achievement.  The faculty will process in full academic regalia, and the honoree will address the college as the main speaker for this occasion.”

Dr. Paul Farmer 

Medical anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer is a founding director of Partners In Health, an international charity organization that provides direct health care services and undertakes research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. His work draws primarily on active clinical practice.  He is an attending physician in infectious diseases and chief of the Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, and medical director of a charity hospital, the Clinique Bon Sauveur in rural Haiti, and focuses on diseases that disproportionately afflict the poor.  With his colleagues at BWH, in the Program in Infectious Disease and Social Change at Harvard Medical School, and in Haiti, Peru, and Russia, Farmer has pioneered novel, community-based treatment strategies for AIDS and tuberculosis (including multidrug-resistant tuberculosis).  He and his colleagues have successfully challenged the policymakers and critics who claim that quality health care is impossible to deliver in resource-poor settings.

Partners in Health, which Farmer helped found and continues to serve as a member of its board of directors, provides direct health care services and undertakes research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty.

Farmer has written extensively about health and human rights, and about the role of social inequalities in the distribution and outcome of infectious diseases.  He is the author of Pathologies of Power (University of California Press, 2003), Infections and Inequalities (University of California Press, 1998), The Uses of Haiti (Common Courage Press, 1994), and AIDS and Accusation (University of California Press, 1992). In addition, he is co-editor of Women, Poverty, and AIDS (Common Courage Press, 1996) and of The Global Impact of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (Harvard Medical School and Open Society Institute, 1999).

He is the recipient of the Duke University Humanitarian Award, the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association, the American Medical Association’s Outstanding International Physician (Nathan Davis) Award, and the Heinz Humanitarian Award.  In 1993, he was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius award” in recognition of his work.  Farmer is the subject of Pulitzer Prizewinner Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World” (Random House, 2003).

Farmer received his bachelor’s degree from Duke University and his M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.  He is the Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

See Spartanburg Herald-Journal article on Paul Farmer's visit.