Derek Tsang, Immunology

Derek TsangLeaders are standing on the shoulder of giants. By learning and observing what has been established before us, we can use our experiences and connections to build upon them. This is the central principle behind my leadership philosophy. In practicing self reflection, I have learned how essential community, collaboration, and teamwork are to innovation. In the past four years at the University of Toronto, I have been privileged to have worked and connected with faculty members, leaders, and communities who have challenged me academically and personally. In working with giants, I have become a leader who uses reflection as a guide to bringing new ideas to life.

As a previous member of the University of Toronto Tennis Club, I came to appreciate the importance of community in being a student and a leader. This was the first club I had ever joined after coming to university and it led me to meeting great mentors who guides me through my first year. After becoming co-president of the club, I recognized opportunities for change by fostering stronger relationships. With my team, it was our goal to create a greater tennis community at U of T. To facilitate more consistent opportunities for tennis at the Athletic Centre, we strengthened relationships with the Intramurals program to create the first Intramural Tennis League at the St. George Campus. Taking these experiences, I wanted to become a mentor and help students who were lost like myself in first year.

Being a peer mentor in the Trinity College First Year Learning Community (FLC), I mentored groups of 15-20 first-year life science students for a year in their transition into university. Working with faculty, staff and peer mentors, I would always create tailored sessions for my students by seeking feedback and input. Being a leader and facilitator of this mentorship program, I led my group by fostering an environment of curiosity, empathy, and openness. I would listen and guide students towards finding solutions independently and help them back up if they failed.
In addition to my direct involvement with students as a mentor, I acted as a liaison between students and the Department of Immunology. I served as a grade representative and currently as the vice-president for the Immunology Student Association. In this role, I have worked closely with our team to provide feedback and insight into securing grants to support our academic and social events. We strived to create stronger faculty-student interactions and further support undergraduate research in the Department of Immunology.

While I have a strong passion for fundamental science and research in immunology and physiology, I also explored my interest in global health through the University of Toronto International Health Program (UTIHP). Founded in 1988, UTIHP is the largest student-led registered charity at the University of Toronto, representing a team of over 100 students. UTIHP strives to create innovative programs to engage students and the greater Toronto community in topics related to public and global health. Through partnerships with the Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Arts and Science and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health we have created various long-lasting initiatives such as the annual Health and Human Rights Conference, U of T World AIDS Day, Earthtones Benefit Concert, Discovery Fund Scholarship Program, and the High School Partnership Program, to name a few. Being apart of the organization for three years, and now as the Co-Director of UTIHP, I have modernized these initiatives and fostered new partnerships. In partnership with the Institute of Global Health, Equity and Innovation, we launched a food pilot project to tackle the issue of food insecurity among students. Most importantly, I have seen that students have incredible ideas that they can make tangible if we give them contacts, resources, and most importantly, our confidence.

As I reflect upon my time as an undergraduate at U of T, I would like to thank everyone who I have had the pleasure of working with. Leaders are nothing without their communities. I hope that I have left a positive impact and empowered others to do the same, and that someday someone will be standing on my shoulders too.