If you don't recognize Timothy Shi yet, he hopes you'll
tune in to see him cooking teriyaki sliders on the show
"Student Chef" on NYUnews.com. A nursing student with his
own cooking show? At age 20, Tim is one part Emeril, one
part Nightingale, carving his own path at NYU College of
Growing up in Maryland and New Jersey with frequent
visits to China, Tim is used to occupying diverse worlds
effortlessly. He was known as the "caring person" in his
family, who got up early to make breakfast for his
late-rising older sister and helped his friends with their
troubles. But Tim, the son of an immunologist and a stem
cell researcher, also had a great love of science. He knew
he wanted to combine these interests in a healthcare
career. But he didn't seriously consider nursing until his
driving instructor-who also happened to be a
nurse-convinced him. During six hours of behind-the-wheel
instruction, the teacher listed the reasons that Tim should
pursue nursing. "If you like to help people, it's the field
for you," the instructor told him, at the same time
cautioning Tim that nursing requires someone who can handle
"I felt like I could do it," Tim says. The harder part
was convincing his father, an immigrant from a farming
family in China, where nurses command less respect than
they do in the United States. It took some time for Dr.
Yufang Shi, now the director of the Institute of Health
Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a
university professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center,
to get used to the idea.
"I did a lot of research about the need for nurses, and
my father especially liked the idea of my becoming a nurse
practitioner," Tim says. "That was crucial, since he's
paying the tuition!"
Tim has soaked up an especially wide range of
opportunities through the NYU College of Nursing since
beginning his undergraduate studies in 2008. He serves on
the Ethics Council, which investigates issues of cheating
and professionalism. He used AP credits earned in high
school to take a minor in public health and policy at the
NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human
Development during his sophomore year. And, thanks to the
encouragement of Gail Wolfmeyer, assistant director of
graduate admissions and student affairs, he joined the
Undergraduate Student Nurses Association (USNA), of which
he is now president.
USNA has flourished under Tim's leadership, offering new
activities and rallying larger numbers of students to join.
This year, USNA sponsored two student tours of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art led by a pathologist-art
historian who focuses on health issues that are visible in
artwork. Tim chipped in as well, providing a cooking class
for his fellow students.
"Tim really represents involvement in the university,"
says Dr. Hila Richardson, former associate dean of the
undergraduate program for the College of Nursing. "He makes
very clear the leadership potential of our undergraduate
In turn, leading USNA has helped Tim become more
confident and organized-just in time for his third year of
nursing school, when course-work becomes more demanding.
Usually an excellent student, Tim was caught off guard by a
score of 76 on a pathophysiology midterm. He says, "I was
enjoying patho a lot, but I was used to studying a day or
two before the exam. I realized I had to get it together."
For two weeks, he stayed in the library from 9 am until
midnight, leaving only for meals and classes. "I pounded it
out and got a 96 on the test. It was a major learning
experience, seeing how hard I had to study."
At the College of Nursing, Tim's favorite class has been
the Adult and Elder simulation lab, where students learn
and practice numerous basic nursing skills-such as hanging
an intravenous line, caring for wounds and tracheostomies,
and giving patients baths-using high-fidelity
He collaborated with NYU dental students for the first
time while on a spring-break trip to Honduras in 2010, with
the organization Global Brigades. There, he joined a team
that brought water to a town that had none during the dry
season. After being trained by volunteer dentists, Tim
helped them show community members how to brush and floss
their teeth, and he applied fluoride to help prevent
cavities. He also observed minor dental surgeries, shadowed
a pharmacist and a nurse practitioner, and assisted in the
triage station, where he helped obtain patients' vital
statistics and record patient health histories.
Tim's background has given him a unique window into the
meaning of cultural competency, which the College of
Nursing strives to impart to each student. Living for part
of the year in China, he is well acquainted with the health
system there. "Cross culturally, it gave me a better sense
of what Chinese people expect from health care," Tim
Tim learned to cook by watching his mother, Dr. Liying
Zhang, a scientist and a talented cook. By high school, he
was regularly preparing dinner for his family. In April
2010, Tim came in second in the NYU Master Chef tournament,
creating a three-course meal in one hour. He did so, he
says, despite the extreme challenge of having to cook
without soy sauce-not one of the sanctioned ingredients.
The Washington Square News asked him to host a show on
NYUNews.com, which presents appealing, inexpensive foods
that college students can make. In one recent episode, Tim
taught viewers to make sushi, and in another, he made
teriyaki sliders with homemade teriyaki sauce, wasabi
mayonnaise, and sesame leaves on top.
Tim does not know where his nursing career will lead,
but when a professor recently suggested that he would make
a good head nurse in a hospital, he liked the sound of it.
In the meantime, he continues to juggle his USNA
responsibilities and to nurture those around him-both
crucial ingredients in the recipe for becoming an