Nursing professor a ‘Living Legend’

Mi Ja Kim

“To me, there’s nothing greater than watching the students grow,” says Mi Ja Kim, director of the Global Health Leadership Office. Photo: Mark Mershon/UIC College of Nursing

Mi Ja Kim has never considered herself a living legend. But the American Academy of Nursing does.

Kim — College of Nursing professor, dean emerita and executive director of the Global Health Leadership Office — is one of four nursing educators in the U.S. named a  2012 Living Legend by the academy, which strives to transform health care policy and practice through nursing knowledge.

Since 1994, the academy has named 86 Living Legends to honor the distinguished careers of those who made notable contributions to nursing practice, research and education. Kim is the fifth UIC nurse-educator to be so honored. Former dean Helen Grace and former professors Harriet Werley, Virginia Ohlson and Suzanne Feetham preceded her.

Kim received the award during a reception at the organization’s annual meeting and conference in Washington.

“I never would have thought I would win such a prestigious award,” Kim said. “I was very surprised to learn I had been honored, because it’s an exclusive group of educators. I’m truly humbled.”

Kim has been at UIC since 1971, when she began a doctoral program in physiology. She joined the nursing faculty after completing her degree four years later. Except for one year as a senior Fulbright scholar and visiting professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University, her alma mater, she has never left.

“I’ve loved my career at UIC,” Kim said. “UIC is where I grew up professionally. I love teaching, performing research, developing faculty, and mentoring the students. To me, there’s nothing greater than watching the students grow.”

Kim is known internationally for her leadership in research, training of future leaders and scholars, administration, and policy development. She has published hundreds of scientific papers and garnered millions of dollars in research grants.

Her research interests include pulmonary physiology/nursing and the evaluation of doctoral nursing education in Australia, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the U.S. She also studies cardiovascular health disparities in Korean Americans.

Her education grant, Bridges to the Doctorate for Minority Nursing students, has been funded by the National Institutes of Health since 2003. During that time, nine underrepresented students have graduated with doctorate degrees. More than 20 master’s students are in the program.

Kim was nursing dean from 1989 to 2005 and from 2009 to 2010. She teaches courses in minority health and leadership in international health and mentors international postdoctoral fellows, visiting scholars and students.

Her latest project is managing UIC’s involvement in the Rwanda Human Resources for Health Program, which works to improve nursing and midwifery and dental and medical education in the east African nation. UIC is one of five U.S. nursing schools selected to participate.

Kim has provided “leadership in nursing across many fronts,” said Terri Weaver, dean of the College of Nursing since 2010.

“Mi Ja wants everyone to have an opportunity,” Weaver said. “She opens doors, facilitates relationships, and provides great leadership. The Living Legend is the highest honor in nursing, and she promotes the field in such a humble way. That’s what makes Mi Ja special and endearing to us.”

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