GLOBAL HEALTH LEADER JIM YONG KIM IS DARTMOUTH’S 17th PRESIDENT
By Fan Zhang, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, March 2, 2009
Harvard University professor Jim Yong Kim, a former director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS division renowned for his research on drug-resistant tuberculosis, will become Dartmouth's 17th president, College officials announced Monday. Kim's selection comes against the backdrop of the presidential search committee's calls for a leader with a commitment to graduate education and knowledge of medical schools.
"The chance to actually take the leadership of an institution that has so many of the elements of what an absolutely ideal undergraduate education would look like is both a fantastic honor and an area of huge excitement for me," Kim said in an interview with The Dartmouth prior to the announcement of his selection.
Kim, who will be inaugurated on July 1, 2009, was introduced to the campus community at a public event in Spaulding Auditorium on Monday. Kim will replace outgoing College President James Wright, who announced in February 2008 that he would step down after an 11-year tenure as president.
THE SEARCH PROCESS
Today's announcement represents the culmination of a presidential search process initiated by Wright's February 2008 notification of his decision to retire. One month after that announcement, Trustee Al Mulley '70 was chosen to chair the College's presidential search committee. The remaining members of the committee, which included six trustees, six faculty members, one alumna and one member of the student body, were announced in June 2008. The search committee was advised in its efforts by the executive firm Isaacson, Miller.
In late September 2008, the committee announced a leadership statement to guide the search process, which called for a president who would strengthen the College and its academic schools while building consensus among students, faculty and alumni. In January 2009, Mulley added that fiscal experience would also be a factor in guiding the committee's choice.
Kim told The Dartmouth that he "was only part of this process of the presidential search starting in early November," after Mulley, himself an associate professor of medicine and of health policy at Harvard Medical School, called Kim and asked him to consider interviewing for the position. Although Kim said he had long known of Mulley, the two had only met just a few weeks previous to that phone call.
Currently the chair of the department of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School, Kim has previously taught undergraduate and graduate students in anthropology, social medicine and global health. Kim was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2004 for his extensive research on treating drug-resistant tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
Kim said he understood that some members of the Dartmouth community might be concerned that the College could become overly focused on research under his leadership, but said his work has long represented a combination of public service, education and training for other medical professionals, in addition to research.
In conjunction with HMS, Harvard Business School and the department of systems engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kim is currently researching how to better deliver medical care globally. Kim said he would like to bring this project to Dartmouth, which he said is well-suited to host this type of work because of the College's collaboration with its graduate schools.
The College must support faculty members' research, Kim said, noting Dartmouth professors' dual role as teachers and scholars.
"I think it will be my job to ensure that our faculty feel they are supported in cutting-edge research, because it's the research that will bring the content," he said. "It's the research that brings excitement of the field as it is unfolding in the world right now into the classroom. Without that, we will be weaker as an institution."
Kim said, however, that his priority will be to provide "the best undergraduate education in the world."
Kim said that he wants to continue teaching undergraduates at Dartmouth, as he has at Harvard, suggesting a revival of former-College President John Sloan Dickey's "Great Issues" course, which sought to educate seniors at the College on pressing issues on both the national and international scale.
"Except for my first two years of medical school, I've been teaching undergraduates and mentoring undergraduates continuously for more than 20 years, so it's always been a priority for me," Kim said.
Kim said he hoped to move the College towards "whatever that next level might be for undergraduate education at Dartmouth."
Kim graduated from Brown University in 1982 with a major in human biology. He earned a medical degree from HMS in 1991 and earned his doctorate in anthropology in 1993 from Harvard University.
In addition to his professorship, Kim also works at several hospitals affiliated with HMS, serving as chief of the division of global health equity at Brigham and Women's Hospital and director of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights.
Kim is a co-founder of Partners in Health, a non-profit organization that provides medical support to low-income communities around the world, and a former director of the World Health Organization's initiative to combat HIV/AIDS.
Partners in Health was profiled in the New York Times bestseller "Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracy Kidder, a work that was required reading for members of the Class of 2009 prior to their matriculation to the College.
Kim co-founded the non-profit in his second year of medical school after meeting Paul Farmer, later his colleague on the HMS faculty. The two traveled throughout the world in the 1990s to Haiti, Peru, Russia and Malawi, researching global health issues.
As a result of their efforts to develop effective and affordable treatments for drug-resistant tuberculosis, Kim and Farmer were later appointed advisors to the director of the World Health Organization.
Leading Partners in Health provided Kim with fundraising experience that will be important in his role as the College's president, he said.
In 2004, Kim was chosen to direct the WHO's initiative to combat HIV/AIDS. Kim spearheaded the "3 by 5" program, which aimed to treat three million people suffering from HIV/AIDS by 2005.
Kim received a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation in 2003, and was listed as one of the 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2006 for his work on global epidemics.
Although working at WHO gave him an understanding of the skills required to direct a large institution, leading a college will likely be a different experience, Kim said.
"Dartmouth College is one of the leading educational institutions in the world," Kim said. "We have faculty who are brilliant, students who are brilliant. It's a different kind of thing than trying to manage 192 countries with dozens of different languages."
Kim, who will become the first Asian American to lead an Ivy League institution, was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1959. His parents met and married in New York City, where Kim's older brother was born. Kim and his younger sister were born after their parents returned to South Korea.
Kim's family moved to Dallas, Texas, when he was five years old and later relocated to Muscatine, Iowa, where Kim grew up.
Although he said he had a "very American upbringing," playing quarterback for his high school football team and becoming class valedictorian, Kim said he was always aware of his "ethnic and cultural differences."
Kim's parents were influential in his decision to become a doctor with a focus on social medicine, Kim said. His father studied at New York University College of Dentistry and his mother studied philosophy at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
"In a way, the kind of compromise between my father, the practical dentist, and my mother, the big thinking philosopher, was anthropology," he said.
Kim's wife, Younsook Lim, is currently a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Boston. They have two children -- Thomas, who is eight, and another son who was born just three days ago on Feb. 27.
Lim studied at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice when she was a medical fellow, though Kim said she does not know if she will practice medicine in Hanover.
The original version of this article incorrectly stated that College President-elect Jim Yong Kim's second son was born Feb. 28. In fact, he was born on Feb. 27