Monday, March 02, 2009

Dartmouth's new president: Global health hero Jim Yong Kim

This esteemed Ivy League institution announced the identity of its 17th president today: Dr. Jim Yong Kim, MD, who will take office on July 1, shortly after I will have graduated. From what I’ve learned of Dr. Kim today, I’m very excited about his selection. Kim has an extensive background in global health and social justice concerns. From a letter to campus from Ed Haldeman, Chair of the Board of Trustees:

Thanks to his inspiring and transformative leadership, Jim Yong Kim has had a far reaching impact throughout his career - both through his teaching and the global organizations he has led. Jim, who currently serves as Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, has worked for more than 20 years to improve health in developing countries - first as co-founder and executive director of Partners In Health, a not-for-profit organization that supports health programs in poor communities worldwide; and then, as Director of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization (WHO), where he helped change the global response to that disease…

He has been teaching and mentoring for more than two decades and teaches an undergraduate class at Harvard today. His classes have proven enormously popular (and constantly oversubscribed), and he plans to continue to teach undergraduates at Dartmouth.

Jim's visionary work has earned him widespread - and well-deserved - international recognition, including receiving a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship in 2003 and being selected as one of TIME magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2006.

Student Assembly president Molly Bode ’09 sent her own letter, as well: “William Jewett Tucker, the 9th President of Dartmouth, once said, ‘Do not expect that you will make any lasting or very strong impression on the world through intellectual power without the use of an equal amount of conscience and heart.’ Dr. Kim has the conscience and the heart to push Dartmouth to become an even greater institution.”

Partners in Health is one of my favorite non-governmental organizations, and I am excited to have its co-founder as our president. I am also encouraged by his commitment to continue teaching undergraduates himself, given that although this is technically a university, our name is Dartmouth College. We alone among the Ivies put our 4,000 undergraduates first, and for all the importance of the world’s best business school and several other fine graduate-level institutions, that is a tradition that must not change. Finally, I am thrilled about something Dr. Kim said in his introductory speech to the campus just over an hour ago:

Certainly, a vital part of that learning takes place in the classrooms in Kemeny, in Dartmouth Hall, the labs in Fairchild and among the stacks in Baker. But just as important to that learning is what happens out on Whitey Burnham Field, up on Mount Moosilauke, here on the stage in the Hop and, yes, even late at night on Webster Avenue. Education is not just about transferring knowledge, [but also] about learning how to be citizens of the world, how to work effectively with others as part of a team, and how to emerge from your studies with an enduring and robust philosophy of life.

That has always been my own philosophy of education: learning first, academics second. Experience first, and grades second. I will happily set aside busy-homework or skip a class to attend an engaging public lecture or travel to a part of the state I have never been. To have a visionary president with an extensive background in global health at PIH, the WHO, and Harvard, who stresses the role of graduate schools while simultaneously teaching undergraduates himself, and who calls life experience “just as important” as the classroom bodes well for the future of this institution. I do not know how Dr. Kim will handle his first test – surviving budget cuts and restoring the health of our endowment – but the initial signs of how he will face the following tests are strong indeed.


Craig Parker said...

Nice post Nathan! - Craig Parker

Nathan Empsall said...

Hey, Craig! Did you watch Dr. Kim's speech? He talked about Freddy and Milton!

Priscilla said...

I don't usually get excited about institutional decisions, but this one has me jazzed too.


D'94, TX-transplant to VT, Episcopalian (Am I wayward? I don't know. Probably.)

Anonymous said...

I love this blog and the choice in Dartmouth's new president. This makes it even more appealing to me as a prospective student. I really hope I get accepted!! Do you know Dr. Kim's birthday? I'm just curious.

Nathan Empsall said...

Thanks, Anon! You should definently come here if you get accepted (good luck!!); the best thing about Dartmouth is that everyone can find their niche here, even if they don't fit into any of Dartmouth's mainstreams. Alas, no, I do not know Kim's birthday.

Priscilla, I think we're all wayward in our own way - way to steal the thunder of both my screennames! ;)