Portrait of PhD candidate Peter Zhang

What is your academic background and why is your current area of research important?

I completed my HBSc, PharmD, and MBA at the University of Toronto where I first worked on wet lab research at both the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and later branched out towards qualitative research with the Reach Alliance at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy.

I realized from these experiences that I wanted to combine and pursue multiple interests together. Currently, I am investigating the intersections between pharmacy, science, technology, and business through the lens of entrepreneurship. My research objective is to better understand how to activate the entrepreneurial mindset of pharmacists. From an impact perspective, I intend to leverage this research to develop curriculums and programs that prepare pharmacists interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career path which in my opinion would strengthen the versatility of the profession and support the growth of its practitioners.

What led you to your current Supervisor’s research group?

Professor Zubin Austin was my professor when I was a pharmacy student, and I was really impressed by his research and his passion for the pharmacy profession. I used to be a Residence Don and I loved working with students. So, his focus on professional identity and pharmacy education really caught my attention. When I thought about what kind of research I wanted to pursue, and who I wanted to learn from and work with, he was the obvious choice!

What are some of the challenges you had to overcome while pursuing your research?

One challenging aspect of my research is recruitment. Since entrepreneurship is an uncommon career pathway for most pharmacists, I need to make sure that I can find enough eligible participants for my study. Furthermore, I recognize that entrepreneurs are busy people, and a related challenge will be finding enough time in their calendars to conduct interviews.  

How do you see your current research playing a role in your career?

I’m currently working full time in tech. I’m a Business Acceleration Partner with ODAIA Intelligence which leverage artificial intelligence to optimize engagements between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals with the goal of reducing patients’ time to therapy.

I previously worked as a Marketing Manager for Johnson & Johnson in their pharmaceutical business unit which was an incredible experience, and I still practice as a hospital pharmacist at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket covering acute care floors. But something that I had always enjoyed immensely was teaching, writing, mentoring, and research. It brings me a lot of personal satisfaction and I’m really looking forward to being able to pursue these interests during my PhD alongside my existing career.

What do you like to do when you are not working on research?

Right now, I play volleyball with friends on Wednesday nights which has been a joy! I also love board games; I especially enjoy Splendor and Agricola. Lately, I’ve also been taking classes at Second City this year for Improv and Storytelling which has been so much fun! Highly recommended.  

Currently, I mentor several students both within and outside of the faculty. I currently sit on the board of directors with Hemophilia Ontario which is a non-for-profit patient advocacy group for patients with inherited bleeding disorders. Writing is a big passion of mine and I continue to write opinion pieces for outlets like the Toronto Star, the Globe & Mail, and HealthyDebate. I keep track of my works on my website which I’m currently trying to convert from HTML to ReactJS when I have some downtime. If you’re interested, you can find some of my projects and papers here.

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