UGSLA Recipient: Nathaniel Vo, Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Nathaniel Vo

To earn one’s leadership extends beyond having a strong work ethic and upholding responsibilities. Leadership encompasses both a perpetual drive for self-reflection and development as well as an initiative to inspire others and cultivate an inclusive community. My four years at the University of Toronto have provided a robust foundation to explore and manifest what it personally means to be an effective leader.

My involvement in the Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology Student Union  (LMPSU) has been  a significant part of my undergraduate journey. Reflecting on this experience, I hold a clear recollection to this day as to why I ran for the position of 2nd-year representative back in 2019. It was to foster a strong sense of community and to be a committed advocate for change. There is still a sense of inertia associated with these two values; however, it has immensely grown to be a microcosm of my leadership philosophy as Co-President of LMPSU. During  my tenure, I lead  biweekly executive meetings to listen  to and encourage others to be leaders of their ideas, manage socials and academic seminars, and work closely with faculty and students to bring positive changes to the LMP program and curricula.

Accompanying leadership is the ability to generate a collaborative environment and provide guidance for your team members. This was important in the planning of our research conference: ‘Repair and Reconstruct: Advancements in Regenerative Medicine’. Enduring through the uncertainty of public health restrictions and the emerging Omicron variant meant that we had to be adaptable in the organisation of our conference: to switch from in-person to a virtual format when necessary. To witness everyone’s efforts culminate towards a successful online event that connected professors, students, and the general public to discuss cutting-edge research has been a rewarding experience.

Research has also been an integral part of my undergraduate career. I am grateful for the opportunity to independently lead a research project at Dr. Susan Done’s lab, with a focus on breast cancer and EMT. My current thesis project at Dr. Hoon-Ki Sung’s lab involves the investigation of white adipose tissue and its relevance to obesity and type 2 diabetes. I also endeavour to learn from the mentorship I have received from my supervisors and apply transferable skills to my role as a mentor in the LMPSU Mentorship Program and as a coach executive at the University College Dragon Boat Club.

Beyond my extracurriculars and research, I have been involved as a volunteer in supporting and fostering a warm and welcoming stay for elderly patients at Mount Sinai Hospital, which has become increasingly important during the pandemic. This is in addition to my previous volunteering experience in supporting and caring for children at a local oncology ward in Vietnam. Through leading physical and creative activities and engaging in one-on-one conversations with the patients, I hope to support them through the challenges they face. Although it may feel that you are a minute part of their lives, I have come to understand the positive impact generated from the many small and thoughtful interactions you make. Both of these unique and cherished experiences have impacted upon me the importance of leading with empathy and compassion.

My leadership philosophy has been shaped and revered by these experiences and my involvement within and outside the university, and further malleated by the many friends and colleagues I have worked with over the years. Leadership does not start and end with oneselfit is about empowering and motivating others to do the same.