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Harvard Medical School and Partners in Health receive $50 million to launch Paul Farmer Collaborative

Dr. Paul Farmer enjoyed 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/The Boston Globe

A $50 million donation from the Cummings Foundation will create the Paul Farmer Collaborative, an international partnership between Harvard Medical School and the University of Global Health Equity, a health sciences school in Rwanda co-founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, the late global health champion.

The donation, which will be paid over 10 years, will fund exchanges of faculty, students, and researchers between the two institutions with the goal of creating more equitable and sustainable global health systems. It will also fund an annual global health conference and create clinical training opportunities for medical students focused on serving communities with limited resources.


Farmer was the Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard University and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at HMS. He is also the cofounder of Partners In Health, the international health and human rights organization that created UGHE in 2015, and was serving as chancellor of UGHE when he died last February in Rwanda.

“This is something Paul fought for for so long, the ability for our amazing colleagues throughout the world to be able to share their expertise,” said Dr. Sheila Davis, the CEO of Partners in Health. “Our students being the beneficiaries of this exchange is a unique celebration of Paul’s life.”

UGHE, based in Butaro, Rwanda, pairs medical training with human rights and social justice education. Students can earn bachelor’s degrees in medicine and surgery and master’s degrees in global health delivery, among other offerings.

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

The university was launched with substantial support from the Cummings Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Republic of Rwanda, which donated land and built new roads for its rural campus.


The university is currently led by former World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim, who succeeded Farmer as chancellor. Kim was also a cofounder of Partners in Health and, like Farmer, earned his MD and PhD at Harvard Medical School.

This is one of the Cummings Foundation’s largest gifts, matching only a $50 million commitment to Tufts University in 2004, according to Joyce Vyriotes, executive director of the Cummings Foundation.

In addition to the $50 million gift, the foundation has also contributed $2 million for the construction of a residential facility at UGHE to house visiting faculty on its campus.

Zeina Mohammed can be reached at Follow her @_ZeinaMohammed.