Jim Kim, Dartmouth and evidence-based public health

What does Jim Kim’s appointment as president of Dartmouth mean for health reform? Dartmouth Medical School is in position to play a big role in the push toward evidence-based medicine, a key element in the Obama health reform plan. 

And Partners in Health, which Kim co-founded with Paul Farmer, is an example of evidence-based medicine and public health.

PIH doesn’t just say – we need to treat the poor in places like Haiti and Rwanda. They do it, document the process and publish research that says – it is possible and here’s how we did it. For an example, see the October issue of the Lancet: “Treatment of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis in Tomsk, Russia: a retrospective cohort study.”

I learned about PIH a few years back  when I went to an event to hear Noam Chomsky talk about health care.  He didn’t really – he sort of gave a talk about the Chomsky view of the world with little health care thrown in.

My toddler son was starting to get a little squirmy, so I was going to leave. Then, another speaker got up and starting talking about his research into curing drug-resistant TB in Peru. His work, however, went beyond research. Jim Kim told the story of Partners in Health.

Having spent 1996 in Cambodia, I had seen the limited treatment there for illnesses  most of us here don’t think twice about.  I decided to stay and listen to Dr. Kim. The story that emerged ran in 2001 in The Boston Phoenix.  

Since then, PIH has saved a lot of  lives and has the evidence to prove it.

Now, Kim is head of Dartmouth, not Dartmouth Medical School. But, he brings with him a sensibility that says – we need to do more than the right thing.  Let’s do the right thing and make sure it works.

 P.S. The Boston Globe’s Stephen Smith updates us on the growing use of genetic testing in cancer treatment with a story in today’s paper on the MGH program.  

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