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Where in the World is Younsook Lim?

Younsook.jpgA number of people have inquired about the presence on campus of President Kim’s wife, Dr. Younsook Lim. By all accounts, Dr. Lim is an engaging person and accomplished physician. She graduated from Harvard (1986) and from Stanford Medical School (1992), and she has worked in public health. Recently, she was the lead author of a study on Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV Care in Eastern Rwanda. She has worked in private practice; she was an instructor at Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard’s pediatrics teaching hospital; and when Jim Kim worked in Geneva for the World Health Organization, she served as a Medical Officer at the WHO in the Evidence and Information for Policy Cluster and the Department of Child and Adolescent Health. Dr. Lim appears to take an active interest in Democratic politics. In 2008 she contributed $5,000 to America Works PAC — a political action committee founded in 1997 by Senator Sherrod Brown (D - Ohio) to help elect progressive candidates to the Senate and House of Representatives.

To date, Dr. Lim has been quite invisible in Hanover. Although she officially is on the staff of the Dartmouth Medical School, she does not appear to teach classes there or see patients in the Upper Valley. One waggish Dartmouth faculty member suggested that Dartblog run a “Spot Dr. Lim” competition with prizes for the first person to pick out Jim Kim’s wife on campus. While rumor has it that she is living in Boston, that is not true. She lives in Hanover along with her two sons.

Why is Dr. Lim’s presence in the Dartmouth community important? The spouse of the College’s President traditionally plays a central public role at Dartmouth. In fact, Susan Wright was esteemed by many observers to be much the better half of Jim’s Wright’s Presidency. Not only did she run the Montgomery Endowment, but she softened Wright’s dealings with faculty, staff, students and alumni. Her attendance at a meeting was virtually the equivalent of Wright’s presence himself.

Dr. Lim could do the same for President Kim, who has a growing reputation for awkwardness is smaller social settings. And she could be a trusted extra set of eyes and ears for the President; it seems that many people can be more frank with a President’s spouse than with the President.

How to interpret Younsook Lim’s lack of involvement in the Dartmouth community? One way to understand her decision not to put down professional or social roots here is that she sees her time in Hanover as limited. If Jim Kim is at the College only to punch a ticket on the way to bigger things in Washington or in the international public health bureaucracy, then Dr. Lim could well believe that Dartmouth is just not worth her time and effort.

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