Public Health Minor Introduced with ‘Bending the Arc’

Bending the Arc

Bending the Arc, an inspiring documentary about visionaries in the field of medicine who dared to cross boundaries to save lives, was screened on Thursday night in Stokes Hall with the announcement of a new public health minor at Boston College.

Bending the Arc follows the story of of Dr. Paul Farmer, a current Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the U.N. Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Community-based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti; Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a physician, anthropologist, and president of the World Bank Group; and Ophelia Dahl, an activist that manages the literary estate of her late father Roald Dahl, who, while in their early adulthood in 1983, began a health treatment program in a rural squatter camp in Haiti, where patients with treatable diseases were left dying and untreated because of a lack of resources.

Still pursuing a medical degree at Harvard Medical School, Farmer would spend his weekends flying back to Haiti, setting up local health clinics to deliver treatment to patients from drastically different walks of life, using supplies that they scraped together and “borrowed” from Harvard.

Inexperience, however, led to early tragedy, as mistakes led to fatalities that prompted questions about the way they deliver medical care, leading them to develop a very controversial model of training local, ordinary villagers as health care workers to give treatment to their own communities.

Even with resistance and doubt from the outside world, their method succeeded and cared for diseases that larger bureaucracy deemed too costly to treat. With pushback globally from organizations that considered their work too risky and beyond guidelines, the iconoclasts fought against a status quo that prioritized prevention over salvation for the sake of costs and efficiency, and changed the scene through their innovation.

Expanding from Haiti and Peru to Rwanda, the group helped revolutionize the Rwandan health care system, and again—unafraid of stepping on some toes—found their own solutions to problems that the world was ready to ignore. Averting a potentially disastrous multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic by treating dying patients against official rules and giving full-course antiretrovirals in rural settings to combat HIV/AIDS, these doctors saved lives and changed the bureaucracy that once stood against them.Told in interviews, in addition to archival and on-the-ground footage amid deadly epidemics, Bending the Arc delivers a breathtaking story about imagination, will, and determination—not without faults—that pushed the world toward greater moral justice and human importance. Bending the Arc documents a story about innovation in public health and the exceptional difference that public health policy can make, inspiring future BC students to strive to also change the world for the better.

Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

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Stephanie is a copy editor for The Heights. She made a Twitter when she was 12, which then got hacked by bots and she never went on the site again.