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TECH TALK: Good Books: Mountains Beyond Mountains

January 6th, 2004 · No Comments

I remember reading Tracy Kidders A Soul of a New Machine more than 10 years ago, while I was working in the US. The book made a lasting impact it brought alive the romance of doing something different, something innovative, something which can change the world. So, when I first read about Tracy Kidders most recent book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, I was a tad disappointed to note that it was about a doctor in Haiti. I was hoping for something more exciting. Yet, the authors reputation got the better of me, and I bought the book recently. Rarely have I been so wrong in judging a book by its cover.

Beyond mountains there are mountains is a Haitian proverb. It means that as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself. Solve that, and theres another one waiting. In many ways, this is how my life has been for the past 18 or so months as we have been trying to tackle the problem of making affordable computing solutions. It was just the tonic I needed to immerse myself in reading the book.

It is one of the most remarkable stories I have read. It is about the quest of Dr Paul Farmer, a man who would cure the world. From the introduction on the books jacket:

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 lifes 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 Farmerbrilliant, charismatic, charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston and the mountains of Haitiblasts 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.

Adds the Publishers Weekly: Farmer founded Zanmi Lasante (Creole for Partners in Health), a nongovernmental organization that is the only health-care provider for hundreds of thousands of peasant farmers in the Plateau Central. He did this while juggling work in Haiti and study at the Harvard Medical School During his work in Haiti, Farmer pioneered a community-based treatment method for patients with tuberculosis that, Kidder explains, has had better clinical outcomes than those in U.S. inner citiesKidder provides a sympathetic account of Farmer’s early life, from his idiosyncratic family to his early days in Haiti. Kidder also recounts his time with Farmer as he travels to Moscow; Lima, Peru; Boston; and other cities where Farmer relentlessly seeks funding and educates people about the hard conditions in Haiti. Throughout, Kidder captures the almost saintly effect Farmer has on those whom he treats.

Tomorrow: Mountains Beyond Mountains (continued)


TECH TALK Good Books+T

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