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Lion's Eye Favorite: Dr. Jim Yong Kim, 17th President of Dartmouth College, Speaks at Assembly

Dr. Jim Yong Kim speaks to students and faculty after assembly

July 8, 2011

Launching with a quotation from John Sloan Dickey, the 12th president of Dartmouth College, "The world's troubles are your troubles . . . and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix," Dr. Jim Yong Kim spoke about his hopes that the current generation of high schoolers will drive humanitarian breakthroughs. "I want you to know that those better human beings who are going to fix the world are you," he said to Exeter students.

Dr. Kim talked about his work at Partners in Health, a not-for-profit organization that supports a range of health programs in poor communities around the world, where he is a founding trustee and former executive director, and his activities as former director of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization (WHO).

He described efforts to bring drugs to treat tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS to poor areas, including Haiti and Africa. He recounted his role at WHO, where he spearheaded a campaign to bring HIV/AIDS drugs to 3 million Africans by 2005. The campaign was perceived by many to be unattainable – "too complicated, too difficult." He told Exonians, "This is the kind of thing that happens when the rich and the powerful are feckless and unfocused in the way they talk about the lives and the destinies of the poor."

"We knew as medical doctors that there was no mystery about treating people in Africa, it was just a question of justice," Kim added. To critics he responded, if we do nothing, "we will be remembered as the generation who saw 30 million people in Africa suffering from a treatable disease and put up our hands because it was too difficult."

Kim showed Exeter students how the campaign used pictures of HIV/AIDS sufferers – before they had access to drugs and afterward – to humanize the message. "It gave Africans a sense of what was possible in their countries." Ultimately, the campaign attained its goal in 2007, Kim explained.

Toward the end of his talk, Kim encouraged Exonians to take the spirit of non sibi "very, very seriously." He mentioned 2 Dartmouth students who stand out as exemplars of non sibi, including Dartmouth and Exeter graduate Margaret "Maggie" Suydam '04, who "served in so many service and leadership roles that she received the [Dartmouth] Dean of the College Service Award in 2008."

Students gave Dr. Kim a standing ovation.

Dr. Kim is an internationally recognized physician and humanitarian, and a gifted educator and anthropologist. He assumed the presidency of Dartmouth on July 1, 2009, and his short tenure is already one of firsts: He is the first Asian-American to be the president at an Ivy League institution and the first physician to lead Dartmouth.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Kim has had a powerful impact in improving health in developing countries and is widely known and respected for his leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases.

Dr. Kim's academic and humanitarian work has earned him far-reaching respect. He was honored with a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship in 2003; was named one of America's 25 "Best Leaders" by U.S. News & World Report in 2005; and was selected as one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2006.

A member of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Kim holds an M.D. and a Ph.D. from Harvard. He received his B.A. from Brown.

Interested in learning more?

See Dartmouth College's press release on Dr. Kim's appointment as president...  

Lion's note: this article first appeared on April 13, 2011.

— Nicole Pellaton