Nursing Association Names UIC Professor “Living Legend”

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

Kim, professor, dean emerita and executive director of the Global Health Leadership Office at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing, was one of four nursing educators in the United States named a Living Legend for 2012 by the organization whose mission is to transform health care policy and practice through nursing knowledge.

She is one of 86 recipients of the award, initiated in 1994 to commemorate distinguished careers that have impacted health care through notable contributions to nursing practice, research and education. 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 on the UIC campus since 1971, when she began a doctoral program in physiology. Upon completion of her degree in 1975, she became an assistant professor in the College of Nursing. Except for the year she spent as a Senior Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at her alma mater, Seoul’s Yonsei University, 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 nationally and internationally for her leadership in research, training of future leaders and scholars, administration, and policy development. Throughout her career, 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 the quality of doctoral nursing education in seven countries: Australia, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. 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 Institute of Health’s National Institute for General Medical Sciences since 2003. During that time nine underrepresented students have graduated with doctorate degrees and more than 20 master’s students are in the program.

In addition to her scientific endeavors, Kim served as the college’s dean from 1989 to 2005 and again in 2009 to 2010. Kim also teaches such courses as Leadership in International Health, and Minority Health, and trains 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, whose goal is to improve nursing and midwifery, dental and medical education, along with human resources, in the east African nation. UIC is one of five nursing schools in the United States selected to participate in the program.

Kim is the fifth UIC nurse educator to be named a Living Legend by the AAN. Former Dean Helen Grace and former professors Harriet Werley, Virginia Ohlson and Suzanne Feetham were also selected.

Terri Weaver, dean of the UIC College of Nursing, said many people are known for one thing, but Kim has provided “leadership in nursing across many fronts. She has performed ground-breaking research in pulmonary diseases and has mentored hundreds of students.” As dean of the College of Nursing, Kim developed numerous global initiatives and assisted nurses across the world in receiving their credentials in the United States, Weaver said.

“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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