It was announced to day that Barack Obama will appoint Dartmouth President and physician Jim Yong Kim to be the next head of the World Bank. This breaks a string of appointments of right wing demagogues including Paul Wolfowitz and Robert Zoellick, both part of the group which orchestrated the invasion of Iraq and the heavy handed response to 9/11 by the Bush admin. I saw Zoellick speak recently and felt kind of gross after it was over.
Jim Yong Kim has an impressive list of publications on global health, notably collaborating with Partners In Health founder and human advocate, Paul Farmer. In fact, Kim was also part of the group that founded PIH and is known for his work on “Social Medicine” (a broad signifier for social determinants of health with a focus on clinical delivery).
Kim is co-founder of The Global Health Delivery Project, a group at Harvard that seeks to improve the health and welfare of population in developing countries by focusing on issues of health care delivery.
Problems of delivery of health care in developing countries has been perhaps my number one interest as of late. In fact, I am even writing a paper on it. As researchers, we can develop effective and radical new clinical techniques and medicines, but they do no good if the systems aren’t in place to deliver them effectively. Issues of delivery will be the primary impediment to controlling and eventually eliminating devastating diseases such as malaria. It is encouraging that Kim has been selected to fill this position.
It is unsurprising that Columbia University development economist Jeff Sachs was not chosen (he has withdrawn his nomination), despite appealing to the world community to pressure the Obama admin to select him. However, it is a relief that the first choice, Larry Summers, has to forego stepping in to a leadership position at the WB. I can think of no WORSE choice. The entire world appeared to agree and it marked the first time that the international community has had a say in who heads the Bank, a welcome departure from past appointments.
Sachs himself even came out in support, likely aware of his role in having Kim picked: “Dr Jim Kim is a superb nominee for the World Bank presidency,” Sachs said in a statement. “I support his nomination 100 percent. I congratulate the administration for nominating a world-class development leader for this position.”
I am interested to learn more about Kim. He may certainly have some ideological skeletons in his closet, though his association with Farmer leads me to think not. Congratulations to the Obama admin for taking the high road on this one.
UPDATE: OK, so it appears that Kim will be the first WB President to ever be caught on film rapping and dancing at a Michael Jackson tribute: