Mountains Beyond Mountains Quotes by Paul Farmer

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracy Kidder. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the most notable Mountains Beyond Mountains quotes? What is the significance of each of these quotes?

The following Mountains Beyond Mountains quotes either belong to Paul Farmer or refer to Paul Farmer. They embody the medical philosophy behind Paul Farmer’s health care initiatives.

Here are some of the most noteworthy quotes from Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.

Mountains Beyond Mountains Quotes

“I feel ambivalent about selling my services in a world where some can’t buy them.“

Paul Farmer felt deep discontent with how many diseases around the world would be preventable if people were only given the appropriate treatment.

During his work in Haiti, Farmer often slept no more than 4 hours a night because he was thinking about patients who needed treatment but weren’t getting it. More broadly, he felt ambivalent about charging for his medical care knowing that many couldn’t afford it. For him, it spoke to a greater need to improve the distribution of medicine and wealth.

Farmer also thought that people in the US, particularly “white liberals,” needed to recognize that big change couldn’t happen without some sacrifice on their part. For example, he hoped that if someone learned about a disease afflicting the poor, they’d give money to help treat it rather than assuming it’d resolve itself.

“People call me a saint and I think I have to work harder.“

Once, Farmer treated a patient who was homeless, Joe, he asked him what kind of shelter or additional treatment he wanted. Joe wanted a shelter where he could be treated for his HIV but wouldn’t get penalized for drinking alcohol, which is often forbidden at shelters.

Farmer found Joe a shelter, but it still forbade drinking alcohol. But for Farmer, sheltering a patient and allowing them some vices was still preferable to them being out on the street. On Christmas, he visited his patients in the community, including Joe, and brought them presents. For Joe, it was a six-pack of beer, which he gladly received, calling Farmer a saint.

Farmer didn’t think he deserved to be called a saint. He liked the idea, but he thought he’d need to work considerably harder to merit the title.

“Beyond Mountains, There are Mountains“

‘Beyond mountains, there are mountains’ is an old Haitian expression. It is often used by Haitians to express the idea that once you overcome one obstacle, you merely gain clarity on the one that’s ahead.

Though Farmer faced constant obstacles to bring medical care to those in need, he felt a sustained and urgent drive to deliver the best care to each patient he treated.

You can find many more noteworthy Mountains Beyond Mountains quotes in the book or our full summary.

Mountains Beyond Mountains Quotes by Paul Farmer

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Here's what you'll find in our full Mountains Beyond Mountains summary:

  • How Dr. Paul Farmer came to operate a hospital in Haiti
  • What the connection is between sorcery and tuberculosis
  • How Dr. Farmer's organization is a model for treating patients in poor countries

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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