November 9, 2009

AMHERST, Mass.—On Thursday, November 12, AmherstCollege’s Public Health Collaborative group will host two events as part of “Read, Connect, Act,” a nationwide day of book parties on global health. The first is a panel discussion of global heath among five prominent health professionals and researchers that will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in Cole Assembly Room of the school’s Converse Hall. The second is a conversation with Tracy Kidder, acclaimed journalist, essayist and bestselling author, about his book Mountains Beyond Mountains starting at 8:30 p.m. Participants for the latter are limited and will be chosen ahead of time using a lottery system; those who aren’t picked can view a live broadcast of the discussion in progress in Cole Assembly Room. Both events are free and open to the public.

The global health panel discussion will feature renowned Partners In Health (PIH) physician David Walton, who works on PIH projects in Haiti. Also participating in the conversation will be Maritz Smidy, a physician with Mercy Medical Center’s Women’s Health Care Services at Providence Prenatal Center of Holyoke; Alayne Ronnenberg, nutritionist and professor at the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health who is working on a tuberculosis project in Peru with PIH; David Buchanan, professor at UMass School of Public Health and director of Institute for Global Health; and Kristin Bumiller, Amherst College professor of political science and women and gender studies who focuses on gender and poverty.

Kidder will discuss Mountains Beyond Mountains, which chronicles the trials and tribulations of Dr. Paul Farmer, a major force in revolutionizing international health. Farmer’s story is a gripping and inspiring account one man’s efforts to establish clinics and hospitals—his compassion for the poor, his inner circle of true believers and, ultimately, his success in helping stem the tide of new HIV and TB infections in Haiti. Farmer is the founder of Zanmi Lasante (Creole for Partners in Health), a non-governmental organization that is the only health-care provider in the Plateau Central in Haiti.

Of Mountains Beyond Mountains a Newsweek reviewer wrote, the book “remind[s] us that we’re implicated in all the problems [Farmer] is working to solve…His complicated humanity only makes him more like the rest of us in our shortcomings—and leaves us asking why we all aren’t a little more like him in our virtues.”

Over his long career, Kidder’s writing has been prolific and outstanding. The Soul of a New Machine—a book celebrated for its insight into the world of high-tech corporate America—earned him a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1982. His other bestselling works include House, Among Schoolchildren, Old Friends and Home Town.

Born in New York City in 1945, Kidder spent his childhood in Oyster Bay, Long Island, where his father was a lawyer and his mother a teacher. He attended Harvard and earned his B.A. in 1967. From June 1968 until June 1969, he served as a lieutenant in the Vietnam War and was awarded a Bronze Star. Following the war, he obtained his M.A. from the University of Iowa, where he participated in the Writers’ Workshop, a program known for the literary accomplishments of its faculty and alumni. His writing has since appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Granta, The New York Times Book Review and The New York Times Op Ed page. He lives with his wife in western Massachusetts and in Maine.

Kidder’s book talk will be broadcast live online for those unable to make the event. To view the event in progress, go to