Celebrating Our Community
Timothy Shi, '12, NYU College of Nursing: Nurturing as Key to Leadership
- Stephanie Susnjara

Timothy Shi, Nursing ‘12

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 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 Nursing.

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 multiple challenges.

"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 students."

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 mannequins.

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 says.

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, 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 outstanding nurse.