Students studying outside the library
Medical anthropologist receives honorary degree from Wofford

Article published Mar 28, 2007

Staff Writer
Spartanburg Herald-Journal

Dr. Paul Farmer, foreground, talks with students and faculty during a luncheon March 27.  In the background are Wofford President Benjamin B. Dunlap and junior John Wood.Renowned medical anthropologist Paul Farmer told a Wofford College audience Tuesday that he believes in the generosity of this generation of college students, despite what some recent reports have suggested.

He implored the students in the standing-room-only crowd at Leonard Auditorium, where the college honored Farmer with the second annual Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind, to follow their instincts in making the world a better and more just place.

"They say that this generation is not intent in social justice in the world, but I just don't believe that," Farmer said. "In fact, I think this generation is intent on making this a kindler, gentler, safer world."

Farmer tried to share that optimism with students and faculty in a series of events at Wofford, including a convocation in which he was given the Teszler Award and a roundtable discussion on global health issues.

Farmer is the founder of Partners in Health, which delivers health care to remote parts of Haiti and now extends to South America, Africa and Russia. He lives in Haiti most of the time.

Matt Low, a sophomore from Lexington, participated in the roundtable with Farmer and said he was encouraged by Farmer's comments. Low, who has a double major in biology and Spanish, said his longtime dream is to serve on medical missions in the Spanish-speaking world.

"It's neat to see a first-hand experience, to learn from a person who's seen it first hand," Low said. "A lot of times we read about things but we never understand it until we can actually see it."

Farmer received an honorary degree from the school, a key to the city of Spartanburg from Mayor Bill Barnet, and a $10,000 cash award, which Farmer said he would donate to charity.

In his remarks, Farmer disputed the findings highlighted in Tuesday's USA Today that showed that 18-to-25-year-olds are less interested in helping the world than people aged 26 to 40. The data about 18-to-25-year-olds (referred to as "Generation Next"), provided by the Pew Research Center, said that 81 percent want to get rich, 51 percent want to become famous, 30 percent want to help people and 10 percent want to become more spiritual.

Farmer said he believes this generation is more activist-minded than the one he encountered at Harvard Medical School 25 years ago. Low agreed with Farmer that this generation has hope, if it gets its priorities straight.

"If we can get our generation out from behind a computer screen, I think we can make a difference like that," Low said. "People are as radical as they want to be behind a computer screen, but when it comes to getting down to it and getting the job done, then they start hesitating. If they can get past that, that's where we'll start seeing progress."

Sean P. Flynn can be reached at 562-7426 or

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