Students Push Kim for U.S. Office

Harvard students and alumni are pushing for Medical School professor Jim Y. Kim to be appointed U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, following Mark Dybul’s resignation from that influential position in U.S. foreign policy and global health the day after Obama’s inauguration.

With support from the Harvard College Global Health and Aids Coalition (HCGHAC), students are encouraging their peers to participate in a call-in and write-in campaign to Senators John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56.

According to an e-mail that has been circulated through House and student organization lists by Kim supporters, the two senators have influence in selecting the nominee for this position since they serve on committees that must approve the nomination.

The student-led campaign began when Luke M. Messac ’08, a former HCGHAC member, wrote an open letter to President Obama advocating Kim as the best candidate for the position. Over 700 people, including many students, have signed the petition.

HCGHAC members said they believe this appointment is critical because the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator is responsible for leading the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a comprehensive plan to fight HIV/AIDS that is often touted as a major success of the Bush administration.

“PEPFAR could be one of the biggest programs in global health in the next 5 years, so this appointment is very important,” said Jonathan L. Weigel ’09, an HCGHAC member.

According to HCGHAC member Heidi E. Kim ’09, the widespread student support for Dr. Kim is both a result of his Harvard professorship and his extensive experience working in global health.

But HCGHAC member Krishna M. Prabhu ’11 said that the club’s support of Kim is secondary to their desire to ensure that the selection process for the office is transparent and merit-based.

He said many students fear that the nominee may support an ideological agenda over evidence-based decision making. Kim, he said, has a record of supporting programs based on scientific data.

“If the [selection] process is truly merit-based, Dr. Kim would be the most likely candidate to come out of that,” said Weigel.

—Staff writer Niha S. Jain can be reached