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Global health expert speaks about humanitarian purpose

David WaltonDoctor, humanitarian, and global health expert David Walton spoke in Haggin Auditorium on September 14 at Transylvania’s fall convocation. The lecture was tied in with Transy’s First Engagements book choice for 2008-09, Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.

Walton met Farmer during his first year of medical school and became his research assistant. His first trip to Haiti in 1999 set the stage for his ongoing commitment to the poorest country in the hemisphere.

A staff member at the Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequities at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, he spends much of his time in Haiti providing medical care to impoverished communities as a part of Farmer’s Partners in Health. This organization aims to bring healthcare and social justice to the poor of the world, not only in instances of emergency, but as a lasting partnership.

“Those who can ill afford to suffer always end up suffering more,” Walton said. “Our task as a world community is to fix this situation. Healthcare is a human right, not a commodity.”

After describing the living conditions in Haiti and sharing his experiences as a healthcare provider in that setting, Walton’s charge to the convocation audience was to become engaged on some level with other people’s lives.

“Whatever you do with your life, there are always ways to help the less advantaged,” he said. “Do what you’re passionate about, but find a way to help others.”

In the First Engagements program, all first-year students read Kidder’s book and took part in small-group discussions of its themes.

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