Despite Harvard Post, Farmer Remains in the Running for Top US Development Job

    Paul Farmer, rumored to be the Obama administration's pick for development czar, has accepted the post as director of Harvard Medical School's Department of Global Health and Social Medicine.

    However, according to reports out of Boston, this appointment does not mean that Farmer is out of consideration for a yet unidentified position in the Obama administration. On the contrary, according to the Boston Globe, Harvard officials said Farmer could take a leave of absence from the medical school and return after his service in Washington.

    This news does raise interesting new questions about exactly what role Farmer would be playing. All signs seem to indicate that Farmer is in the running for a position that would oversee all U.S. development agencies. Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew said May 27 that the administration was in the midst of a review of how to better coordinate across agencies.

    It also seems that the Obama administration's main commitment is to improve global health. Farmer is an infectious disease expert, and the proposed 2010 international affairs budget contains spending increases across global health programs.

    Meanwhile, a Washington development insider outside of the administration told Devex May 27 that Wendy Sherman is still the top pick to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development. Devex reported earlier this month that Sherman, a close confidant of the Clinton family, was awaiting final White House approval before being nominated for the post.

    If Farmer is indeed a candidate for development czar and Sherman is the pick for USAID, the development community could be in for a massive shake-up in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more as this story develops.

    About the author

    • David Francis

      David is a Washington-based journalist and former Devex staffer who spearheaded Devex's "Obama's Foreign Aid Reform" blog. He has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Pittsburgh Post Gazette,, San Francisco Chronicle, Foreign Policy magazine, and the Washington Monthly. David holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a graduate degree from Georgetown University.