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May 15, 2007

ULM's Summer Reading Program book announced

Best-selling author Tracy Kidder's "Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer" will soon become a widely-discussed book at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

"Mountains Beyond Mountains," a true story about a renowned infectious-disease specialist who spends his life trying to make modern medicine accessible to the poor, is part of the Summer Reading Program, an initiative that began at ULM in 2005.

Frances Gregory, assistant dean of Arts & Sciences, served on the Summer Reading Program committee that selected "Mountains Beyond Mountains." "I think that all of our students will be inspired by the doctor's commitment of time, energy, and money to health care for those who cannot pay, and I think that the book will especially appeal to our many students who hope to spend their lives making and keeping others well."

The Summer Reading Program is designed to introduce first-year students to intellectual exchange at ULM. In the next several weeks, all incoming freshmen will receive free copies of the book, purchased by the ULM administration. After reading the book during the summer, students will discuss the text in the fall's English, Freshman Year Seminar (FRYS) and other courses.

The program provides students with a preview of college study, said Director of Retention Barbara Michaelides, who oversees the program. "We're providing students with the opportunity to participate in their first common intellectual experience, to introduce them to the university's academic life, and to enhance the sense of unity among students, faculty, staff, and the community."

“Mountains Beyond Mountains” plays an integral role in the mission of the first year experience at ULM, said Christopher Harris, assistant professor of English at ULM. The book’s message of social activism will be carried out this fall thanks to a $14,968 grant secured by Harris and Michaelides. The grant, awarded by the UL System Board of Supervisors, will provide first-year students the opportunity to study social and environmental issues. FRYS students will contact local relief agencies such as the Red Cross, the local food bank, and other United Way agencies, and assist them in gathering supplies.

Harris said, “’Mountains beyond Mountains,’ with its themes of social activism and compassionate community service, will offer our students a pertinent, inspiring message about social justice. The story of Dr. Farmer's mission will offer substantive grounding to the community service projects in FRYS 101 and Learning Community-linked English 101 courses.”

More about author Tracy Kidder:

Tracy Kidder is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award. The author of the bestsellers “The Soul of a New Machine,” “House,” “Among Schoolchildren,” and “Home Town,” Kidder has been described by the Baltimore Sun as the “master of the non-fiction narrative.” He graduated from Harvard, studied at the University of Iowa, and served as an army officer in Vietnam. Kidder resides in Massachusetts and Maine.

More about “Mountain Beyond Mountains”:

This riveting true story illustrates how one person can make a difference, as Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is in love with the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.

At the center of “Mountains Beyond Mountains” stands Paul Farmer a doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, and the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant. Farmer grew up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most.

“Mountains Beyond Mountains” takes the reader from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that "the only real nation is humanity,” a philosophy that is embodied in the small public charity he founded, Partners In Health. He enlists the help of the Gates Foundation, George Soros, the U.N. World Health Organization, and others in his quest to cure the world.

At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope, and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb Beyond mountains there are mountains: as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.

For more information about the Summer Reading Program, call Michaelides at 342-5550 or e-mail her at

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