May 15, 2009
Paul Farmer -- founder of Partners in Health and vice chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School -- said he is in discussions with the State Department about a possible Obama administration appointment to coordinate U.S. global health initiatives, the Boston Globe reports. Farmer made the announcement Monday during a meeting with HMS faculty.
Farmer said that he has not decided whether he will accept the appointment if he receives a formal offer but that he is considering it, according to the Globe. The Globe reports that it was unable to confirm whether Farmer is being considered for a full-time policy position or for an advisory role or if the appointment would be a new or existing position. Several top positions at USAID -- including administrator, deputy administrator and the assistant administrator in charge of global health are vacant, the Globe reports. These positions are presidential appointments and would require Senate confirmation. In addition, Farmer could be discussing health policy positions with the State Department.
Farmer did not respond for requests seeking comment. PIH and HMS also declined comment. A spokesperson at the State Department would not discuss personnel discussions that are in progress or possible new positions. Laurie Garrett, a global health policy specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the administration's announcement last week of a $63 billion, six-year initiative that aims to address HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other illnesses could allow new appointees the opportunity to make a significant impact in U.S. global health policy. Garrett, who has known Farmer for several years, added that she would be surprised if he is considering a government position in part because of his extensive involvement with PIH (Smith, Boston Globe, 5/15).
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