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Third-year UTSC student heading straight to med school

Imaan Javeed's many activities on and off campus will serve him well as he heads to medical school downtown, straight from third year. (Photo by Bianca Quijano)

He’s getting used to it now, but Imaan Javeed had to take a moment when he found out he’d been accepted into the MD program in the Faculty of Medicine at U of T St. George.

“I was in disbelief because I realized that I was in third year and this is my first time applying,” says Javeed, a student in co-op molecular biology and biotechnology.  

You would think that he spends most of his time buried in books, studying hard to maintain his GPA. But for Imaan, success isn’t all about doing well in academics.

“I see my work with students, advocating for them and planning events with the Biology Students’ Association (BioSA) and as a Facilitated Study Group facilitator as a slightly larger part of my life,” he says. “My social interactions are what kept me going.”

During his high school years, Imaan was a camp counsellor for UTSC All-Star Camps. On the first year of his undergrad, he joined BioSA as a first-year representative. He is now the club’s president. He’s dabbled in improv theatre and also developed What’s On at UTSC, a website serving as a directory for all campus clubs and activities so that students can learn more and get involved more easily.

“Here at UTSC there’s so many ways to get involved. You can find your niche, you just have to look for it,” Imaan says.  

And for him, UTSC is also a family affair. Imaan’s mom, Shehna Javeed is the interim manager of Advising and Learning Skills Services in the Academic Advising and Career Centre. She also holds two U of T degrees and has been working at the University for over 20 years.

“I’m absolutely proud. This is the beginning and now there’s more work ahead,” Mrs. Javeed says. “The advice that I give him is to always be proactive and connect with his peers and professors in a genuine way.”

That sincerity is something that Professor Aarthi Ashok witnessed while working with Imaan in BIOB12, a cell and molecular biology laboratory course for second-year students.

“He is probably an outlier in how smart he is as a student, but he still related to everybody. He is extraordinarily empathetic,” says Professor Ashok.

For the course, students like Imaan who have previously excelled at the subject matter are enlisted in service-learning roles, helping their peers with difficulties they may have.

“Most students, because they’re so busy, treat basic biology labs as a recipe. They go through the steps without questioning or really understanding the reasoning behind these procedures,” Professor Ashok explains. “Imaan is particularly gifted in these types of things because when he went through the course, these are the questions that came to him.”

That curiosity helped Imaan thrive in a number of research opportunities at the University.

He’s worked in the Andrade Lab on a group research project analyzing the dispersal characteristics of Black Widow spiders, which was presented at the Ontario Ecology, Evolution and Ethology Conference.

“We tested different seasonal temperatures and their effect on dispersal rates of these invasive spiders. We found that there was no significant difference in dispersal characteristics between temperatures,” Imaan says.  

During a co-op work term with Professor Hamel in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at U of T St. George, Javeed studied protein-to-protein interactions between the patched 1 receptor, a tumour suppressor, and sonic hedgehog, which is linked to the formation of tumours. Specifically, Imaan’s work had implications with breast cancer research.

All of these opportunities are the main reason why he chose U of T Scarborough over other universities.

“Getting that actual experience in the science industry or in a research lab position is invaluable. It really opens your eyes on career paths that you might like and those that you might want to cut out.”

Imaan’s entire academic experience is rooted in Scarborough. He attended elementary school at Mason Road Public School, middle school at Jack Miner Senior Public School and high school at R.H. King Academy. Being exposed to the East End’s diverse communities, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds taught him the importance of considering all types of perspectives.

“I went to elementary school in a low-income area. Then I went to middle school in a place where most of the families were better off. I grew up with people who couldn’t afford breakfast and also with people who lived in mansions,“ he says. “Living in Scarborough gave me that experience and I didn’t even have to travel the world to see it.”  

Imaan plans on applying that East End frame of mind and his passion for advocacy work in his career as an MD. He hopes that at medical school, he will find a cause that he can champion. Charity medical work with organizations like Doctors Without Borders or the Red Cross is also on his bucket list.

“What attracted me to medicine is that it was a way for me to do everything that I wanted to do. Doctors are politically active. They do research. They’re involved in education. Doctors are constantly both teaching people and learning new things,” Javeed says. “In the end, that’s what matters to me – that I’m making a positive difference in the community.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough