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Obama picks Dartmouth's Kim to lead World Bank

March 23. 2012 9:38AM

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has named the South Korean-born president of Dartmouth College as his nominee to become the next president of the World Bank, a prestigious multi-nation financial institution that provides loans to low- and middle-income countries.

Dr. Jim Yong Kim, 52, was introduced by the President at a White House Rose Garden ceremony on Friday morning. The Washington Post reported that Kim was a surprise choice.

His name was not among those that had been floated publicly to replace current World Bank President Robert Zoelick, who is leaving in June at the end of his five-year term.

The New York Times said Kim becomes the front-runner for the post because, traditionally, the United States selects the head of the World Bank and Europe selects the head of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund. Both institutions founded in 1944 at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, commonly known as the Bretton Woods conference, in New Hampshire.

Kim became Dartmouth's 17th president on July 1, 2009. He said in a statement posted on the college Web site that if elected by the bank's directors as its new president, he will step down as president of Dartmouth, and, 'Our Board will take appropriate steps to ensure continuity of leadership and determine the timing of a search.'

Kim said, 'This is one of the most critical institutions fighting poverty and providing assistance to developing countries in the world today. After much reflection, I have accepted this nomination to national and global service.

'When I assumed the presidency of Dartmouth, I did so with the full and deep belief that the mission of higher education is to prepare us for lives of leadership and service in our professions and communities,' Kim stated.' While President Obama's call is compelling, the prospect of leaving Dartmouth at this stage is very difficult. Nevertheless, should the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors elect me as the next president, I will embrace the responsibility.'

In a separate statement, the college said, 'We are honored that Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim has been nominated by the President of the United States for such an important position. The World Bank is one of the most critical institutions fighting poverty and providing assistance to developing countries in the world today. Advancing a mission of such global importance at the request of our nation's President reflects the qualities of service and engagement with the world that have long distinguished Dartmouth.

'If the World Bank approves the nomination of President Kim, then Dartmouth's Board of Trustees will take appropriate steps to ensure continuity of leadership and determine the timing of a search.'

The bank has said it intends to select its new president in time for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings in April, according to the Times.

The Post reported that the United States, as the world's largest economy, has the largest percentage of votes on the World Bank's 25-member executive board.

Kim will not be the only candidate for the position. Last Friday, Angola, South Africa and Nigeria nominated Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian minister and former World Bank official.

Reuters reported that Brazil wants to nominate former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, but it can't do so without Colombia's support, which now looks unlikely.

Kim is an internationally recognized physician and anthropologist who was awarded the prestigious MacArthur 'Genius' Fellowship in 2003, was named one of America's 25 'Best Leaders' by US News & World Report in 2005 and was selected as one of TIME magazine's '100 Most Influential People in the World' in 2006. Dr. Kim is married to Dr. Younsook Lim, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Boston.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, in December 1959, Kim moved with his family to the United States when he was 5. He grew up in Muscatine, Iowa.

A 1982 graduate of Brown University, Kim also earned a medical degree from Harvard Medical School and a Ph.D. from Harvard in anthropology.

He has been a professor of medicine and social medicine and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He has also be chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and director of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Kim has been director of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization and had been an advisor to that organization's director-general. Kim headed the WHO's first major effort to promote treatment for AIDS patients worldwide.

He was also a co-founder and former executive director of Partners In Health, which supports health programs in poor communities in the United States and other countries.

According to Kim's biography on the Dartmouth web site, Kim worked in Peru in the 1990s to help develop a treatment program for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, which was the first large-scale treatment of the disease in a poor country. He also spearheaded efforts that reduced the price of the drugs used to treat this form of tuberculosis by more than 90 percent.

'Prior to the efforts of Dr. Kim and Partners In Health in Peru, MDR-TB was a death sentence in developing countries,' Kim's biography says. 'Today, treatment programs for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis are in place in more than 40 nations around the globe.'

According to the Times, Kim was the first Asian-American to head an Ivy League institution when he assumed the post in 2009.

The World Bank provides low-interest loans and grants to poor countries as well as market-rate loans to richer developing countries like China and Brazil, according to the Post.

Obama, flanked by Kim, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said at the White House, 'The leader of the World Bank should have a deep understanding of both the role that development plays in the world and the importance of creating conditions where assistance is no longer needed. It's time for a development professional to lead the world's largest development agency.'

Citing Kim's work on expanding HIV treatment, Obama said he would further the work of an institution the President said was important to the health of the world economy.

'When we reduce hunger in the world it strengthens the entire world economy,' Obama said. 'Ultimately when a nation goes from poverty to prosperity it makes the world stronger and more prosperous for everyone.'

Kim did not speak at the announcement.

New Hampshire's elected officials praised Kim.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said he 'has been a leader on global health issues, and his focus on eliminating poverty and promoting sustainable development make him an excellent choice to become the new president of the World Bank. While New Hampshire will be sad to lose him, I wish him the best of luck.'

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said, 'This is a great honor not just for Jim Yong Kim, but also for Dartmouth. His nomination reflects the school's pre-eminent role as a world class institution that is dedicated to preparing leaders to confront global challenges.'

Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H., a Dartmouth alumnus, called Kim 'a proven leader and humanitarian that I am confident will be able to meet the challenges of this position. While his departure will truly be a loss for the Dartmouth community, it will be a great gain for the global community.'

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