Mountains Beyond Mountains

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Jim Yong Kim Character Analysis

An ambitious doctor, and an important ally to Paul Farmer. Jim Kim is a talented doctor and anthropologist who shares Farmer’s commitment to social justice and Third-World charity work. After they complete medical school together, Kim and Farmer cofound Partners in Health, a charity designed to address the root causes of inequality and poverty around the world. While Kim is a fiercely energetic doctor and health adviser, he believes that his talents would be best spent on consulting and leadership, rather than hands-on patient care (which is Farmer’s preference). As a result, Kim focuses on the bureaucratic and business sides of PIH, while Farmer concentrates on the day-to-day work.

Jim Yong Kim Quotes in Mountains Beyond Mountains

The Mountains Beyond Mountains quotes below are all either spoken by Jim Yong Kim or refer to Jim Yong Kim . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Random House edition of Mountains Beyond Mountains published in 2009.
Chapter 10 Quotes

Some people said that medicine addresses only the symptoms of poverty. This, they agreed, was true, and they’d make “common cause” with anyone sincerely trying to change the “political economies” of countries like Haiti. But it didn’t follow, as some self-styled radicals said, that good works without revolution only prolonged the status quo, that the only thing projects like Cange really accomplish is the creation of “dependency.”

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer , Jim Yong Kim
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

Paul Farmer and his friend, Jim Yong Kim, are thoughtful people who think deeply about the merits of their own work. One question Kim and Farmer ask each other frequently concerns the long-term effects of their work—is it possible that by treating disease, they're only making the Haitians more dependent on American aid, thereby keeping Haiti subservient to a foreign power? In other words, why doesn't Farmer train Haitian doctors to treat their own people—in time, wouldn't this be a better use of his time than continuing to treat hundreds of patients a day?

For now, Kim and Farmer insist that their work does more than merely creating a cycle of dependency. Just because Farmer spends hours treating Haitians doesn't mean that Haitians will always look to the U.S. for help and medical care. Indeed, by treating Haitians' medical problems, Farmer is enabling the Haitians to spend more time building their own businesses, running for political office, reforming education systems, etc. Healthy people can accomplish more than sick people, after all. Nevertheless, the fact that Farmer and Kim are considering the big-picture, long-term effects of their actions in Haiti proves their devotion to nonprofit work and all its implications. 

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Chapter 15 Quotes

Farmer and Kim began collecting a number of official WHO statements. Some put the case more plainly: “In developing countries, people with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis usually die, because effective treatment is often impossible in poor countries.” For Farmer […] there was a larger principle involved. A TB epidemic, laced with MDR, had visited New York City in the late 1980s; it had been centered in prisons, homeless shelters, and public hospitals. When all the costs were totaled, various American agencies had spent about a billion dollars stanching the outbreak. Meanwhile, here in Peru, where the government made debt payments of more than a billion dollars every year to American banks and international lending institutions, experts in international TB control had deemed MDR too expensive to treat.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer , Jim Yong Kim
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

This long passage illustrates the hypocrisy in the way the Western world studies and treats diseases. As Kidder describes it, there was an outbreak of tuberculosis in Boston and Peru almost at the same time. The U.S government provided huge sums of money to ensure that the people of Boston wouldn't suffer any more than they absolutely had to. And yet when the time came to treat tuberculosis in Peru, American medical officials—including some of the same people who'd supported TB treatments in Boston—insisted that TB was too expensive to treat in Peru.

The hypocrisy of the medical establishment is clear here. If the sick are American citizens, who share a culture and a heritage with the medical officials, then no sum of money is too high to treat them. It's only when the patients are strangers—people who speak a different language, or have a different skin color than the medical officials—that cost becomes a factor at all. As Farmer argues, even to ask the question, "Is this treatment worth it?" is to treat a patient as a second-class human being, something to be measured in terms of economic value rather than basic human dignity.

Chapter 19 Quotes

As sometimes happened, Paul seemed to know what Jim was thinking. “What do you want to do now?” he asked. There was warmth in the question, Jim felt, a real invitation for him to come clean. “Political work is interesting to me, and it has to be done,” he said. “I prefer it to taking care of patients. It’s O for the P on an international scale.”

Related Characters: Doctor Paul Farmer (speaker), Jim Yong Kim (speaker)
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Farmer and Kim—two old, like-minded friends—part ways on the question of how they can best take care of the sick and impoverished. As Kim sees it, his talents would be put to the best use on a high-level, administrative level. Kim is a world-renowned expert on nonprofit policy: he's not necessarily the best one-on-one doctor, but he knows how to use resources efficiently, address the root causes of a problem, and put together a team of great doctors. Kim is, in short, an experienced, talented medical researcher who's ready to graduate to the next level.

Although Farmer respects Kim's ambitions of working in politics or high-level administration, he doesn't share these ambitions. Although Farmer is just as intelligent and far-thinking as Kim, he refuses to move on to administrative work, because his true passion (his calling, really) is patient care. It may seem strange that such a brilliant man would prefer working with individual patients (surely Farmer could accomplish more as a political leader than he could meeting with individual TB victims). But even if Farmer could accomplish more by pursuing a political career, he refuses to lose touch with his "roots" as a doctor. He's motivated by something entirely different than practicality, or even passion—he thinks it's his duty to continue practicing medicine.

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Jim Yong Kim Character Timeline in Mountains Beyond Mountains

The timeline below shows where the character Jim Yong Kim appears in Mountains Beyond Mountains. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 10
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...Todd McCormack, to be on the board of advisers. Other PIH members include Jim Yong Kim, another medical student at Harvard. Kim shared Farmer’s ambitions, and despises the American establishment for... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
...would be too painful. For many years afterwards, Ophelia only hears about Farmer through Jim Kim. But gradually, Ophelia works her way into the structure of PIH. Farmer has a lifelong... (full context)
Chapter 11
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...He’s accepted into the Brigham Hospital—one of the most prestigious in the world. Farmer and Kim, who’s also accepted to Brigham, make an arrangement that enables them to divide their time... (full context)
Chapter 14
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...convinces Tom White to raise 30,000 dollars for the venture. In Lima, Jack and Jim Kim plan to establish a second Zanmi Lasante, devoted to curing diseases. Their plans are extremely... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Father Jack and Jim Kim encounter difficulties almost immediately in Lima. Their hospital, in the small district of Carabayllo, is... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...even in very good hospitals. Farmer assembles his data and sends it back to Jim Kim in the U.S. (full context)
Chapter 16
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Jim Kim and Farmer plan to treat MDR-TB in South America. Jim cynically points out that first... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...derisively nicknamed Médicos adventureros: “adventuring doctors.” The government points out that neither Farmer nor Jim Kim has a legal right to practice medicine in Peru (in reality, these rules are almost... (full context)
Chapter 17
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
...the city. Farmer courts her for two years, and finally marries her in 1996. Jim Kim is Farmer’s best man. (full context)
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Saintliness Theme Icon
Jim Kim takes on a taxing schedule, in which he travels to Cange and then Peru, sometimes... (full context)
Chapter 18
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
On the second day of the conference in Boston, Jim Kim discusses his work with PIH in Peru. He argues that money for TB treatment should... (full context)
Chapter 19
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Science, Magic, and Religion Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Kidder stops to give some background information about Farmer’s partner, Jim Kim. Kim was born in South Korea and grew up in Iowa in the 70s. His... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Jim Kim studied at Brown, where he deliberately spent most of his time with black and Hispanic... (full context)
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Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
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In the late 90s, Jim Kim and Farmer are researching drugs for treating MDR. They know from experience that the cost... (full context)
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America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Jim Kim makes contacts with a Dutch pharmaceutical company that specializes in making second-line (i.e., generic off-brand)... (full context)
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Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...and infamous for its bureaucracy. One major concern of the WHO with regard to Jim Kim’s project is that the MDR drugs could become too widely available—in other words, the drugs... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Jim Kim tries to strengthen his case by finding a precedent for promoting a second-line drug in... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
By the year 2000, the new Green Light Committee, headed by Farmer and Jim Kim, has driven down the costs of MDR drugs by about 95 percent. Jim Kim’s strategy... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Jim Kim and Farmer meet in Austria to attend a conference on TB. They discuss the “O... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Kidder considers what Jim Kim and Farmer have accomplished in Peru. The medical world thinks in terms of cost-effectiveness, arguing... (full context)
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Jim Kim, Farmer, and Ophelia devise a bold new strategy. Using their success with treating MDR, PIH... (full context)
Chapter 20
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
As the chapter begins, Howard Hiatt is explaining to Kidder that Farmer and Jim Kim have “mobilized the world to accept drug-resistance TB as a soluble problem.” But TB is... (full context)
Chapter 23
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Kidder notes that Farmer and Jim Kim have demonstrated that MDR can be treated cost-effectively, meaning that they’re often invited to TB... (full context)
Chapter 24
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...45 million dollars to wipe out MDR-TB in Peru in the next 5 years. Jim Kim, who’s overjoyed with this development, plans to eliminate at least 80 percent of cases of... (full context)
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Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
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Shortly after the Soros Foundation appoints the PIH its successor, Jim Kim tells Farmer that he’s unable to come to a meeting in Russia, as he has... (full context)
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Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
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A few weeks after his argument with Farmer, Jim Kim flies to Siberia, and Kidder goes with him. They travel into the town of Tomsk,... (full context)
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The next morning, Jim Kim leaves Russia and Farmer arrives. He spends his day examining MDR patients, and attends another... (full context)