Eugene Shedden Farley, Jr, MD, MPH, was one of a small number of intellectual leaders in the first generation of American family physicians. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, served in the U.S. Navy and attended Swarthmore College. He trained in general practice in Denver and, after two years’ exposure to population health on the Navajo Tribal Reservation in Arizona; he and his wife, Linda, opened a practice attached to their home in small-town Trumansburg, NY, where they thrived for seven years and began raising their four sons. The Farleys entered rural practice in hopes of being able to serve the population and develop a longitudinal study of the “evolution of health and disease in the population served.” Before starting the third accredited family medicine residency program in the country in Rochester, NY, Gene enrolled at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health and earned his MPH, specializing in learning how others dealt with inadequate supplies and uneven physician distribution. In Rochester, he, Linda and others pioneered novel ways to train family physicians in the community; and in 1978, Gene brought his vision to the University of Colorado as chairman of its fledgling family medicine department, and subsequently to the Wisconsin School of Medicine. Upon retirement, the Farleys continued medical student teaching part time, and were very involved with social and political issues emphasizing the need for universal care.
Gene made no distinction between primary care and public health, individual and community, the mental and the physical, or personal doctoring and community engagement. Gene’s mantra was: Health care is a right, not a privilege. Hence, family medicine was only a part of Gene’s scope and reach. He was a progressive activist known for “fighting for the right causes.” Gene and Linda pursued every opportunity to build community in the world and to correct injustices around them. Because the reach and scope of Gene Farley’s career and life inspires and aligns with the University of Colorado Department of Family Medicine’s commitment to advancing evidence-based health policies; our department, with Gene’s family’s consent, has named its new policy initiative in his honor.
The Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy Center will continue Gene’s life’s work and ongoing commitment to change. Policy is movement in a direction for a reason; and our reason is to usher in a new era of comprehensive, robust and sustainable primary care. In the spirit of Gene Farley, we will accomplish this through a network of collaborative, committed individuals.