When Vivian Tsang was growing up in Vancouver, adults and peers alike warned her to stay away from the Downtown Eastside. Instead, she developed an interest for that neighbourhood and others like it. This was fuelled by a sense of justice and the belief that everyone deserves equitable health care access.
"I'm driven by a moral dedication not just to do things right, but to do the right thing," she explains. "It's a privilege to work with and be an advocate for people whose voices are seldom heard."
Hope and empowerment
While still in high school, Tsang launched her own non-profit organization, the Humanitarian Organization for Providing Empowerment (HOPE). Internationally recognized and supported by the Clinton Foundation, HOPE's community-based initiatives include peer-to-peer mentorship to help at-risk youth navigate the transition to post-secondary education, as well as workshops on menstrual/sexual hygiene for women in the Downtown Eastside.
Through the Warmth of Winter project, HOPE provides blankets and other supplies to the homeless while engaging them in conversation to learn about their stories and struggles.
"A big part of HOPE is storytelling. The material items we bring are a means of identifying unmet needs in the community through human connection and genuine conversation," says Tsang. "I'm fuelled by hope, always believing more can be done and looking for creative ways to make things happen."
Going beyond Canada's borders
Tsang's commitment to helping the vulnerable and marginalized extends beyond Canada. In 2018, she interned with the World Health Organization and spent the summer in Zimbabwe and South Africa, helping with an initiative to prevent the spread of HIV and tuberculosis among health care workers.
Whether working overseas or serving as student senator at the University of British Columbia, Tsang says her success comes from a lot of hard work, long hours, and always choosing the path of most resistance.
"I'd encourage all new medical students to imagine what they can accomplish, and the impact they could have if they step beyond their day-to-day roles. I long for a world where we are not afraid to challenge status quo and chase visions for our world."
Vivian Tsang is receiving the CMA Award for Young Leaders (Student) in recognition of her exemplary creativity, initiative and commitment to making a difference at the local, provincial/territorial or national level.