One person can move a mountain
March 24, 2013 BY Nicole Melanchon
I did not know when I boarded the plane to Washington, D.C. in January 2012 for the first-ever Shot@Life Champion Summit that those three days spent learning about global vaccines would change my path and start my life-long journey as a global health advocate.
After attending the Summit, I returned home and immediately started reading a book I was given at the training, Tracy Kidder's "Mountains Beyond Mountains," a deeply inspiring book on the work of Doctor Paul Farmer and his quest to bring modern-day medicine to some of the poorest people in the world.
Doctor Farmer has dedicated his life to fighting for global health equity and is one of the world’s leading thinkers on health and human rights and the consequences of social inequality. Over the years, Farmer has championed the treatment of drug-resistant Tuberculosis (TB), a deadly vaccine-preventable disease that continues to strike unfairly among the world’s poor.
TB has been around for over 131 years yet remains the second leading infectious disease killer in the world, killing 1.4 million people each year. It is also the third leading cause of death for women of childbearing age and has led to over 10 million orphans worldwide. Alarmingly, TB is becoming smarter, more dangerous and more difficult to treat as it morphs into a drug-resistant strain which disproportionally impacts poor countries.
Many countries that have developed drug-resistant forms of TB such as Haiti, Russia and Peru, have long been forgotten by the medical world and deemed too expensive to treat. However, Doctor Farmer has challenged this idea and dedicated his life to proving that not only can drug-resistant TB be treated, it must be treated and is the moral thing to do.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Farmer speak at the 25th Annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum here in Minneapolis. As Doctor Farmer delivered his speech, I listened in awe and excitement, holding tightly on to my copy of "Mountains Beyond Mountains." After his speech, I joined hundreds of others in line to get my personal copy signed. Not only did I get it signed, I also got to speak with Doctor Farmer about my work with Shot@Life and how we are playing a role in providing global health equity through the delivery of life-saving vaccines to developing countries.
Farmer ended our conversation on a beautiful note, thanking me for my work in global health. But that thanks should really be shared among all those around the world who are willing to speak up, stand up, and do something to stop disease and give everyone a fighting chance.
Today is World TB Day, and while this disease still tears families and communities apart, I am confident that together, we will be able to stop this deadly disease.
POSTED IN: Global Health
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