Chan, Ace

I want to ensure that communities that have been largely underprioritized and neglected in health research are not only focused on, but that the research involves members of the community as well. The research materials developed will be created by the community, for the community.

Research Description

My dissertation research aims to decrease the cancer risk disparities in gender diverse communities through primary prevention, as roughly 50% of cancers can be prevented by adopting healthy lifestyle behaviours such as reducing alcohol consumption and tobacco use.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

As a Public Scholar, I have hope that the research I conduct will not take 17 years to translate into practice or to reach the communities it is meant for. With PSI funding, I can develop a novel way to present the findings of my research in a way that resonates with the communities it is meant to serve, so that uptake can occur more rapidly. To me, being a Public Scholar means being able to successfully reach and improve the health of communities, in a timely manner.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

The PSI allows me to have a creative outlet that extends beyond developing posters and presentations for conferences. Over the years I have found that when I allow myself to be creative with my research, it makes the research more impactful and engaging for the communities I want to reach. I am thankful for PSI support and with it, I can craft unique ways to disseminate research from my PhD so that the communities which my research was developed by and for, can access it.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

My research conducted during my PhD can relate to broadened career possibilities through social media. I have observed some professors use social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, to reach out to the public about research related findings. I think this is an invaluable tool to disseminate knowledge when there is a lot of misinformation out there these days.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

I want to ensure that with PSI funding, communities that have been largely underprioritized and neglected in health research are not only focused on, but that the research involves members of the community as well. The research materials developed with the funding from PSI will be created by the community, for the community.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

While COVID-19 affected us all, communities were not affected equally. Some communities, where larger parts of the population were and continue to be precariously employed and housed, were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. I want to identify and inform priorities for policy change, to address social determinants of health now, and for the future.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

When I was completing my master’s degree, I always knew that I would come back to pursue a PhD. I contemplated on switching from a master’s to a doctorate degree while in my master’s program but I am glad I did not. The work experience that I gained after my master’s graduate program was invaluable and has many ways helped me focus in on a specific path that I would like to pursue with my academic career. Wanting to go back to school after being in the workforce for 2 years made my acceptance into the doctoral program very meaningful to me. I decided to pursue a PhD as I find the possibility of creating research than impacts policy and has the potential to change lives, exciting. This excitement is what makes me get up in the morning. What I also love about research is that it allows me to have a creative outlet.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

The West Coast has always been my home and I was not ready to part with it quite yet. The choice to pursue my doctoral studies at UBC was simple as UBC is a high-ranking university both in Canada and internationally. I wanted to earn a degree from an institution that would make me employable post graduation. UBC also has developed a strategic plan that focuses on aspects that resonate with my values, such as inclusive excellence and interdisciplinary education. I like how UBC is focusing on how to make the school experience more pleasurable and inclusive for all. Having UBC spend the time and resources on improving the institution through focus groups and town hall events, gives me hope that in the future, access to education will be more equitable.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

The professors in my program have a real passion to teach students and give students the skills they need to succeed in industry, academia or other career paths. The time and dedication that is required to ensure that all students in the class comprehend concepts that are being presented is one of the perks of graduate school, as smaller class sizes allow professors to know their students more and recognize where a student might have misunderstood a concept. While SPPH has different departments within, I like how many professors collaborate and provide their unique skills and expertise to a project. The ability to collaborate with others who have similar research interests as yourself has made me learn more about what avenue of research I would like to pursue in my academic career.

For you, what was the best surprise about graduate life, about UBC or life in Vancouver?

With the moderate climate and access to wineries and mountains close by, Vancouver has a lot to offer. I like how comfortable Vancouver feels, whether you’re in active wear taking a stroll by the seawall or dressed up to grab dinner in downtown. One of the things I really like about UBC is how close it is to the beach and trails in the forest. I find that having access to the beach and trails has been a really nice way for me to destress between classes or exams. Also, the UBC campus has transformed quite a bit since my undergraduate degree. One of my favourite things about this version of campus that I am seeing now is all the new food options that are available. The restaurants that are here now, reflect a diversity of cultures and palates so there is certainly something for everyone.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

From working on being a well-rounded person, balance has helped me prepare for graduate school. While my studies are very important to me, having a life outside of school is equally as important. Really finding out what you need to relax and reset to prepare yourself for the next hurdle in graduate school is necessary. Without it, you will wind yourself up too tightly. I try to schedule in breaks into my daily routine which has helped me move forward in my program steadily. When pursuing such a meaningful degree at a prestigious school, it is important to also tend to your mental health so that you do not crumble under the pressure. I really emphasize the importance of being studious while also going for walks or hanging out with friends. I think finding balance in your daily life in graduate school is what will get you to the end.

Do you have any tips for students from your home country coming to Canada / to UBC Grad School?

The advice that I have for new graduate students is something that I still do to this day: find people whose career you admire and ask them how they got where they are now. I have been very fortunate with the amount of people who have been willing to sit down with me and answer my questions about pursuing a doctorate degree or a career academia. I also think that a core group of friends that are going through the graduate program as well is needed. It is great to have friends who are going through the same program to not only share hardships with, but successes as well. People say that the friends you make in graduate school are friends for life and I have to say that I agree with that statement so far. The last piece of advice I would give is to try not to feel guilty when you take a needed break from your studies or need a weekend to relax and unwind.