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Jim Yong Kim served as the 12th President of the World Bank from 2012 to 2019. This Korean-American former physician and anthropologist has achieved many other significant personal accomplishments throughout his life, and he is widely celebrated as an inspirational success story.

Key Takeaways

  • Appointed by President Barack Obama, Jim Yong Kim served as the 12th President of the World Bank from 2012 to 2019.
  • Kim has consistently held a robust interest in health care issues.
  • In 1987, Kim and his college friend Paul Farmer co-founded Partners in Health (PIH), an organization that provided medical care to developing nations.
  • Kim has done extensive work promoting low-cost medication for individuals afflicted with AIDS, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, and other ailments.
  • In 2015, Forbes magazine named Dr. Kim as one of the 50 most powerful people in the world.

Early Life and Education

Born on Dec. 8, 1959, in Seoul, South Korea as Kim Yong, Kim’s family immigrated to Muscatine Iowa, in the United States, when Kim was only five years old. Kim’s mother received a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Iowa, where his father taught dentistry.

During his youth, Kim changed his name to Yong Kim, to align with Western naming conventions. He subsequently added the name “Jim” to further Westernize his name.

As a student of Muscatine High School, Kim joined the Model UN and engaged in athletics such as basketball and football. After graduating as valedictorian in 1978, Kim began pursuing his college education at the University of Iowa. Sophomore year, he transferred to Brown University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1982, earning a bachelor’s degree in human biology.

Kim pursued graduate studies at Harvard University, where he earned a medical degree in 1991 and a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1993.

Notable Accomplishments

Heath Care Leader

In 1987, while still at Harvard, Kim and classmate and friend Paul Farmer cofounded a Boston-based organization called Partners in Health (PIH), to provide medical care to poor regions of the world.

In the mid-1990s, Kim spearheaded efforts to provide low-cost treatments to sufferers of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB), in Carabayllo, Peru. He later shifted his efforts to the treatment of AIDS, for which he was awarded the MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 2003.

Kim taught at Harvard Medical School from 1993 until 2009, at which time he was named president of Dartmouth College.

From 2003 to 2004, Kim served as an adviser to the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO). He was the director of WHO’s HIV/AIDS department from 2004 to 2005, during which time he led the “3 by 5” campaign, which aimed to provide antiretroviral drugs to three million new HIV and AIDS patients by 2005.

World Bank President

In March of 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Kim for the presidency of the World Bank, largely due to his experience working with poor communities and developing nations. Kim was confirmed to the position in April of that year and took office that July.

Asked whether his personal lack of background in finance would affect his ability to lead the World Bank, Kim replied: “Economic development and poverty alleviation are so complicated that I don’t think there’s a single background or a single discipline that is sufficient to tackle these great human problems…I want to eradicate poverty. I think that there is a tremendous passion for that inside the World Bank.”

As president of Dartmouth College, Kim addressed sexual violence on campus with a program that educated students on the importance of bystander intervention.

As World Bank president, Kim earned an annual salary of $500,000, plus benefits. In 2015, Forbes magazine ranked Kim as the 45th most powerful person in the world and estimated his net worth to be at least $5 million.

After the World Bank

As of mid-2021, Dr. Kim lives in New York where he works as Partner, Vice Chairman, and Emerging Markets Chairman for Global Infrastructure Partners, an infrastructure investment fund, having joined GIP in 2019.

The Bottom Line

Dr. Jim Yong Kim rose from humble beginnings, becoming a leader in the health care policy and in health-related humanitarian efforts. His impressive career has included working as president of Dartmouth College for three years and president of the World Bank for seven years.

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