Leader in the Spotlight: Tommy Tam, Research Star & Basketball Enthusiast

For our last Leader in the Spotlight of 2014, we are featuring, Tommy Tam, an Honours Bachelor of Science in Health and Disease graduate and a current Master of Science candidate in Health Services Research at the University of Toronto. Find out how he embarked on his current career path, the differences between undergraduate and graduate studies and the most urgent health issue in Canada!

1. You’re currently undertaking a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Health Services Research. Think back to the senior year of your Bachelor’s degree — how did you decide that graduate studies, and this program in particular, was to be your next step?

I am glad that you asked! During my undergraduate studies, I had research opportunities in ecology and clinical research that helped me discover my passion for research. These experiences expanded my understanding and knowledge of research, helped me define my research interests, and most importantly, gave me an “inside-look” at what researchers do. In the senior year of my undergraduate degree, I was granted a research assistant position under the Federal Work-Study program at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto. This experience introduced me to the field of health services research and is the program that I am currently enrolled in with a particular focus in health-related quality of life and long-term care.

2. When are you anticipating the conferral of your M.Sc.? Where do you see yourself going afterwards?

I am currently at the writing phase of my thesis, which sometimes seems like a never-ending cycle of writing, reviewing, and revising. Nonetheless, I anticipate to defend before the summer (exciting!!). After the completion of my graduate degree, I intend to pursue a career as a Research/Policy Analyst, where I can utilize my knowledge and experience in health policy and research at the Ministry of Health.

3. You’ve been a committed volunteer for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. What makes this organization special? Why do you think volunteerism is important for today’s youth?

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is one of Canada’s largest charities and is most widely recognized and trusted authority on heart health. The Foundation has invested millions of dollars in heart and stroke research, along with health promotion and advocacy programs across the country. Initially, I got involved with the Foundation as a health promotion volunteer, where I educated and promoted healthy eating and physical activity to reduce risk factors of heart disease and stroke at health fairs in the local community. Recently, I have been involved with activities related to advocacy, such as meeting with my MPP to discuss why I support the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the important work they do in research and health promotion.

Volunteering is a way for me to give back to my community. After all, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my teachers, supervisors, mentors, and friends.

4. Compare your graduate studies to your undergraduate studies. Would you say that you have more free time as a graduate student than you did as an undergrad? What do you do in your free time?

This is a hard question! In my opinion, I think I have less free time as a graduate student than when I was an undergraduate because I have course work and a thesis to complete – along with other commitments like part-time jobs, volunteering and extracurricular activities. Having said that, I can often be found on the basketball court, reading science fiction, or participating in outdoor activities during my free time.


Tommy and his enduring love of basketball


5. What, in your opinion, is the most pressing issue for health policy in Canada?

With the aging population and increasing life expectancies, the need for services and programs to support older adults will increase dramatically. This services and programs in demand may include and not limited to long-term care, supportive housing, home and community care. One study estimated that by 2038, the demand for long-term care in Ontario will increase 10-fold. Recently, The Peterborough Examiner published an article on the sudden increase in number of seniors waiting for long-term care beds across the county. In April 2013, the Ontario government announced an additional $260 million investment in the community care sector to reduce wait time for patients. Ontario has made concerted efforts to improve quality of care and support seniors, but there is still progress to be made.


Want to ask Tommy a question? Schedule a chat with him today! Tommy is happy to answer your questions and offer advice on graduate studies and research.

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