Jim Yong Kim, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the World Bank, is a former student of the University of Iowa and son of a onetime member of the College of Dentistry faculty.
Kim, currently president of Dartmouth College, studied at the UI from the summer of 1978 to December 1979, in the College of Engineering. He then transferred to Brown University during his sophomore year, receiving a B.A. from Brown and an M.D. from Harvard.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1959, Kim grew up in Muscatine before coming to the UI. His father, Nhak Kee Kim, was a dentist and taught as a part-time clinical instructor in the UI College of Dentistry from 1971 until 1983, and co-founded the Iowa Society of Periodontology. He passed away in 1987. His mother, Oaksook Kim, received a Ph.D. in philosophy from UI.
A public health expert, Kim taught at Harvard Medical School and was director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS department before becoming Dartmouth president in 2009.
Enrique Carrasco, a law professor and director of the UI Center for International Finance and Development, says he is an unusual pick in that past World Bank leaders have had political or financial backgrounds, not health and education.
"President Obama’s nomination of Dr. Kim for the Presidency of the World Bank is an interesting pick," says Carrasco. "Dr. Kim’s development expertise, particularly in public health, and his Korean heritage may dampen the criticism of the archaic tradition that has granted the United States the privilege of appointing an American to the post."
Carrasco also suspects politics played a role in the nomination.
"In an election year, this is probably the best the Obama administration could do to heed the call for an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process that the World Bank has endorsed," he says. "An important question is whether Dr. Kim will be able to lead and manage the World Bank effectively. Will he be a good fit for the institution? His work with the World Health Organization should address some of the concern in this regard."
If approved by the World Bank board, Kim will replace Robert Zoellick, whose term is expiring in June.