International AIDS worker, graduate of the Health Promotion programme of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health (2008) Co-founder of Soul Influence and African acappella septet that helped raised more than a $1 million to support Aids/HIV work globally.
Describe yourself in 50 words or less.
Easy-going, soccer-lover who loves accapella music and Thai food, I’m a proud New College grad who can’t seem to leave UofT. I’ve been studying (almost) continuously at the University of Toronto since 2002!
Why did you choose New College (be honest) and what were your expectations?
I had heard that it was extremely diverse. So I thought that I would be more comfortable at New College. This turned out to be both true and false. True: I was comfortable and I blend in quite well at New College. False: I made friends in other colleges and could probably have been ‘comfortable’ at other colleges too.
What are your fondest memories from your time at New College?
One event comes to mind. The 2003 youth weekend symposium organized by the Gendering Adolescents AIDS Prevention (GAAP) Project and supervised by Dr. June Larkin. It was absolutely wonderful! We had a vibrant group of youth from across the city engaged in different ‘cool’ activities such as photography and mural painting.
Was there anyone in particular at New College (staff, student or faculty) who had a strong influence on your life or made a lasting impression on you?
One person had a significant impact on me: Dr. June Larkin. Looking back, I know now that working with her and having her as my unofficial mentor for the first few years of my undergraduate years helped me gain the confidence to pursue my career goals.
The entire Registrar’s Office staff personnel also made a lasting impression on me. They answered all my questions and were always quick to point out a bursary or upcoming event that I would be interested in. Without their support, I don’t know if I would have been able to concentrate on my studies and not on my financial difficulties.
How did your academic and social experience at the New College prepare you for life and your career?
My work with GAAP and my 299Y research experience in New Delhi helped prepare me for my research work years later at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network. Both experiences also helped develop my research abilities which helped me gain admission to the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
Tell us about some of the lessons you learned and how valuable they are today?
Be honest to yourself and kind to everyone. Don’t be afraid to share your ideals and goals with people who you think may be able to support you. Maintain good health habits (even during exam time) and persevere because your faith will be rewarded.
What are your major accomplishments and who had the most influence on your Career?
Overall my most proud accomplishment is actually getting to do the things that I love to do! HIV work is my passion. Over the past ten years, I’ve worked in the field of HIV/AIDS in various capacities (i.e. policy, advocacy, research or volunteer work) on 4 continents, including the UN headquarters in New York with UNAIDS. And now I’m learning stuff that will help me improve the health of people, including those affected by this condition.