The first Asian-American to lead an Ivy League institution who also has been lauded for efforts to provide health care for the poor has been named president of the World Bank.
Dr. Jim Yong Kim, whose Dartmouth College presidency began in 2009, will assume a five-year term at the World Bank beginning July 1. The move marks a return to global development issues for Kim, a public health expert, MacArthur “genius” grant recipient and Harvard University-trained physician and anthropologist. He says “the prospect of leaving Dartmouth is very difficult, [but] after much reflection, I am embracing the responsibility,” Kim calls called his nomination by President Barack Obama a “compelling” public-service call.
Steve Mandel, chairman of Dartmouth’s board of trustees, congratulated Kim on his appointment to the financial institution. “We have immense respect for Jim as a leader and human being and are proud of his contributions.”
Prior to joining Dartmouth, Kim was director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS department where, in a four-year period, he led an ambitious initiative that provided antiretroviral drugs to three million people in remote areas around the world living with HIV. He also co-founded Partners in Health, where he pioneered the treatment of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis.
In academia, Kim was chairman of the global health and social medicine department at Harvard Medical School and taught undergraduate and graduate-level courses. He holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard and an M.D. from the medical school.
Drawing upon those experiences at Dartmouth, Kim charged faculty in disciplines such as medicine, business, engineering and arts and sciences, as well as practitioners from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, with finding solutions to the growing problem of healthcare delivery. This resulted in the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, a groundbreaking, international network of researchers and doctors creating and implementing new models of high-quality, low-cost care. Kim also formed the National College Health Improvement Project, a collaborative of 32 academic institutions which initially focused on ways to reduce high-risk drinking among young people. His academic roots extend to his Midwest upbringing, where his father taught dentistry at the University of Iowa.
However, controversy also has shadowed Kim’s college presidency.
Shortly before Obama nominated him for the World Bank position last month, Dartmouth began investigating one of its fraternities for alleged hazing violations stemming from a student complaint. Meanwhile, faculty complained that administrators had grown complacent to habitual violations by Greek organizations, and some alumni threatened to halt donations unless increased anti-hazing measures were taken. Kim has announced the creation of a campus task force of students and employees to address hazing and its relationship with binge drinking and sexual assault.
Last year, the faculty also demanded more accountability, disclosure and transparency from Kim and his Cabinet in explaining how job losses and other personnel reductions helped resolve a $100 million budget gap during the nationwide recession.
In recent weeks, Kim has been globe-trotting, meeting foreign finance ministers in his campaign to secure votes from members of the World Bank’s executive board. In an unprecedented competition, government officials from Nigeria and Colombia also were nominated for the World Bank presidency, although the Colombia candidate dropped out of the race. The board selected Kim this week, extending the 66-year U.S. hold on the top job at the 187-nation development agency.
The World Bank combats poverty by raising money from its member countries and borrowing from investors to provide grants and low-cost loans to developing nations.
Dartmouth trustees have named Dr. Carol Folt, currently the provost, as interim president once Kim leaves June 30. Folt, who has told the board she doesn’t intend to become a candidate for the presidency permanently, has overseen Dartmouth’s first institutional, faculty-led academic strategic planning process.