Paul Farmer


A Q&A with the other banker to the poor, World Bank Prez Jim Kim | 

The activist-physician president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, was in Seattle today to talk with folks at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about their mutual interests in fighting poverty, reducing inequity and generally trying to make the world a better place. I wasn’t able to attend, but I did chat with Kim by telephone prior to the meeting.

Dr. Jim Kim
Dr. Jim Kim

Kim, before becoming an anti-poverty banker, was best known as the other half of the leadership at the health advocacy organization run by Paul Farmer, Partners in Health. Kim and Farmer showed, among many things, that complex TB and HIV treatments could be successfully done in poor communities. Both have been outspoken about the need to view health and poverty within a human rights context. Kim’s appointment by President Barack Obama to take the helm of the World Bank was highly controversial, to some extent because he was a physician rather than a policymaker, finance guy or economist. We asked him if things have calmed down, and when we can declare an end to poverty.

Irony note: Twenty years ago, Kim was outside on the street protesting against the World Bank. Now, he’s running it.

Q So how does it feel to be a banker trying to cure economic ills rather than a doctor fighting epidemics?

JK:  The World Bank is really an extraordinary organization. The thing that surprised me is that this place is just full of extremely talented people who are passionate about fighting poverty. These are people who could have worked in other places, in finance, and made a lot more money but they are here to fight poverty. This is a bank with the mission of fighting poverty…. One of the things I’ve learned in taking this job is how critical it is to understand these complicated development problems within the context of economics and finance.

Q Are you guys holding any mortgage-backed derivatives? :-)

JK: We are very highly regulated and closely watched. (So I guess that means no….)

Q When you were nominated, some said your concept of development – as a physician, focused on people – was not a good fit with the World Bank because it is an organization focused on “national development.” One expert and critic called your appointment an “intrusion of humane development into national development.” Response? Continue reading

Surprise! Putting a doctor activist in charge of World Bank controversial | 

Dr. Jim Kim

When President Barack Obama last week announced that he was nominating Dr. Jim Kim, an outspoken poverty advocate and physician, to take the helm of the World Bank, it was a surprise to almost everyone.

Kim is currently president at Dartmouth College but is best known as the physician co-founder, with Paul Farmer, of the renowned anti-poverty and health improvement organization Partners in Health. He was a surprise nomination because he isn’t a banker, a financial expert or a politician at sunset looking for new pastures to practice the art of compromise.

And like Paul Farmer, he is passionate, fearless and fairly uncompromising in the fight to defeat global poverty, and the diseases of poverty. This is why so many in the global health and development community are excited about his nomination to head up the World Bank — and also why Kim may become the first U.S. nominee to face a serious challenge for the post.

I happen to know of at least one job search Kim reportedly got dropped from due to his tendency to say what he thinks. Continue reading

Paul Farmer explains why global health has to first focus on poverty | 

I caught up with physician-activist Paul Farmer at the Clinton Global Initiative, the other big meeting in New York full of heads of state, celebs and bigwigs.

Farmer, the inspiring and controversial cyclist-celeb Lance Armstrong and others have joined in the clarion call to expand the global health agenda to include all the big killers (as per the UN meeting on chronic disease). Here’s more on Armstrong’s pitch.

I asked Farmer why he thought it necessary for his organization, Partners in Health, to emphasize that the UN focus not just on disease, but on diseases of poverty:



Digging deeper into the cycle of poverty and disease | 

It seems pretty obvious to most of us regular folks that being poor also increases your risk of being in poor health and that, conversely, illness can make you poor.

And it seems pretty clear that this is even more so for the very poor living in parts of Africa or elsewhere in the developing world where there are few social safety nets, no disability insurance programs, many more deadly and disabling health threats — and your ability to work is basically a matter of survival.

Apparently, it’s not so clear or obvious to many experts and academics.

Tom Paulson

Matthew Bonds

That’s why Matthew Bonds, who lives and works in Rwanda with the organization created by health activist Paul Farmer called Partners in Health, is trying to bring clarity and hard numbers to what many know as the “cycle of poverty and disease.”

“Yeah, my wife keeps asking me why we need to do this, too,” laughed Bonds, who spoke yesterday at the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Continue reading