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$50M donation made to honor the late Dr. Paul Farmer, continue his work


The donation by the Cummings Foundation was announced Tuesday.

Dr. Paul Farmer enjoys a moment of singing and dancing in the Children’s HIV day care center at Partners in Health/ Inshuti Mu Buzima’s Rwinkwavu Hospital in rural Rwanda. Eric Neudel for The Boston Globe

An international connection between Harvard Medical School and the Kigali, Rwanda-based University of Global Health Equity will strengthen thanks to a $50 million donation in honor of the late Dr. Paul Farmer.

The Woburn, Massachusetts-based Cummings Foundation made the donation, which the medical school announced Tuesday.

UGHE was founded as an initiative of the human rights organization Partners in Health by Farmer, a global health champion, physician, activist, and teacher who died unexpectedly last February. Farmer, also a medical anthropologist, was a professor in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School as well.

The gift will specifically establish the Paul Farmer Collaborative, which aims to build upon Farmer’s ideals and work on global health equity. The initiative will allow students, postdoctoral trainees, and faculty to travel between Harvard and UGHE’s facilities, fund an endowed professorship of global health equity at Harvard, and create clinical training opportunities for medical students and residents focusing on building surgical capacity and health innovation in low-resource settings.

It will also fund independent and collaborative research at both institutions and provide funding for teaching. Additionally, the fund will support a Harvard and UGHE-organized annual conference and workshop that will focus on health equity, global health delivery, research, education, and social medicine. 

The Cummings Foundation, founded by philanthropists Joyce and Bill Cummings, has previously had a relationship with UGHE through Partners in Health. In 2014, an early commitment of funding from the Cummings Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored a 10-year framework that catalyzed the creation of UGHE. Both foundations then later funded the first phase of implementation of the university. 

“During his all-too-brief time here with us, Paul was the vital physical link between Harvard and UGHE. In Paul’s absence, it is critical that we act to ensure that this bond and his work endure,” Joyce Cummings said in a statement.

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