Jim Yong Kim is a great example of a very successful but not-planned-since-birth career that still has not reached its pinnacle. What is interesting is that his success stems from taking the road less taken. While his career choice, a doctor, is a career path encouraged by Asian American parents, the path of least resistance would have been to, well, practice medicine as a specialist. Instead, five years after graduating from Brown University, he co-founded a non profit, Partners in Health, to help provide medical care to the poor in developing countries:
At its root, our mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone.
When a person in Peru, or Siberia, or rural Haiti falls ill, PIH uses all of the means at our disposal to make them well—from pressuring drug manufacturers, to lobbying policy makers, to providing medical care and social services.
Whatever it takes. Just as we would do if a member of our own family—or we ourselves—were ill.
I would imagine that he did this from his heart, to do something meaningful with his life, not as a Machiavellian plan to rule the world. Indeed, at Partners in Health, his partner, Paul Farmer, basked in the PR limelight while he seemed to be working quietly in the background for more than fifteen years. From Partners in Health, he went on to World Health Organization focusing on HIV/AIDS while teaching at Harvard Medical School. From here, he became President of Dartmouth College becoming the first Asian-American to assume the post of president at an Ivy League institution. And while this is prestigious position, there is a good possibility that he will become the next president of The World Bank.
Nice guys DO come in first, it would seem!
“Highly respected among global health experts, Dr. Kim is an anthropologist and a physician who co-founded the nonprofit Partners in Health and a former director of the department of H.I.V./AIDS at the World Health Organization.
“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,” President Obama said Friday. “It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency.”
In a statement, Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary and an alumnus of Dartmouth, praised Dr. Kim, with whom he is friendly: “Development is his lifetime commitment and it is his passion. And in a world with so much potential to improve living standards, we have a unique opportunity to harness that passion and experience at the helm of the World Bank.”
The White House had scrutinized Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts; Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and Obama economic adviser; and Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador for the United Nations, for the World Bank job.
But all three might make good candidates for high-ranking administration positions in the event that President Obama won a second term. Moreover, President Obama wanted to name a development expert, particularly one with experience aiding the world’s poorest. That led the White House to select Dr. Kim.” New York Times
I suppose that it’s fair to say that perhaps these opportunities, while hard won and deserved, perhaps were not available to Asian Americans even a decade or two ago. Maybe the world has changed significantly when Obama, as the first African American president was elected. What do you think? Or perhaps is the path less traveled a road that Asian Americans should be exploring more than ever? Do your parents agree? What do they attribute Jim Yong Kim’s success to?