The Farmer Brothers — Paul and Jeff

Medical Center

On Oct. 17, Dr. Paul Farmer gave a lecture in Cole Hall in which he outlined the methodology that his organization, Partners in Health, has developed for global health delivery. He discussed a three-pronged approach to caring for the poor: a community-based model that begins in people’s homes, is enriched by access to health centers staffed by community health workers, and is linked to hospitals for treatment of severe disease.

Farmer discussed the political difficulties of providing care to people simultaneously stricken by both poverty and “untreatable” diseases, including drug-resistant tuberculosis, cancer and AIDS. Partners in Health has undoubtedly provided excellent care to needy populations in Haiti, Rwanda, Russia and Lesotho, and will continue to stand as a prototype for how to advance global public health.

Interested in public health myself, I did a bit of research on Paul Farmer the man, as opposed to Paul Farmer the icon. My favorite random Paul Farmer fact is that his brother Jeff spent almost 15 years as a professional wrestler. I don’t mean the kind of wrestler who goes to the Olympics and tries to use leverage and technique to score points, but rather the kind of wrestler who stands in the middle of a ring in make-up and tights, shouting threats and curses that weave the web of a soap opera aimed at teenage boys.

Jeff Farmer has had several pseudonyms throughout his wrestling career, including Lightning (of the tag team Thunder and Lightning), Cobra (whose back story was that he served in the first Persian Gulf War), Super J (which he used only in Japan), and his most famous role, nWo Sting. To clarify, the nWo (New World Order) was the fake organization within World Championship Wrestling (WCW) that threatened to overthrow the WCW from the inside during the mid-1990s.

The nWo was led by heel (bad-guy) wrestlers who, several years earlier, had played face (good-guy) characters, including Hulk Hogan. The savior of the WCW was a mysterious man named Sting, who would descend from the rafters wearing a long black trench coat and wielding a baseball bat. The nWo played a trick on the audience by employing a fake Sting, played by Farmer, to enter the ring and yield to the nWo, suggesting that all was lost for the WCW. Unfortunately for the nWo, the real Sting eventually got word of this and beat up the fake Sting.

Doesn’t it make you wonder what Thanksgiving must have been like at the Farmer household during that time?

“So Paul, what’s been going on with Partners in Health lately?” his father might casually ask.

“Well, Dad, we’ve expanded our little community clinic into a 104-bed hospital, with two operating rooms, a women’s health center, a blood bank and a dozen schools.”

“Oh, that’s good. And what about you, Jeff?”

“Well, I’ve been working on adapting my old Cobra Clutch Slam to my new character.”

“Ohhh… That’s … good. Who wants to carve the turkey?”

In Jeff’s defense, he probably had great fun traveling around the world getting paid to dress up and play silly characters. In addition, he’s currently the project manager of a research program at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, aiming to identify how people’s genetic background influences their response to physical activity. That does make me wonder how Paul would fare in the squared circle.