Mar 18, 2024

Celebrating Our New 2024/25 MedGen GSA Reps

Medical Genomics

Meet Jade Zhang and Renée Smith

By Teresa Brooke-Lynn Coe

Centring their platform on compassion, support, and advocacy, Jade Zhang and Renée Smith are excited to bring their unique flare and perspective to the Molecular Genetics Graduate Student Association (GSA) as representatives for the Medical Genomics program (MedGen).

Picture of Jade (left) and Renée (right)

Becoming close friends during their first semester in the Medical Genomics program this past fall, Jade and Renée share a passion for two things: student life and student support. It was these shared goals that sparked them to run as MedGen representatives together in hopes of bringing the MedGen student experience to the forefront.

“I am really passionate about student life,” Jade explains describing her previous experiences in student leadership, “and I want to make sure other people have a good time because I know that school is not always necessarily fun”. With their combined skills and experiences, the duo hopes to create more events for cohort bonding outside of academics. Furthermore, by facilitating a close bond among their colleagues, they hope to create a stronger peer-to-peer support network.

These bonds become paramount for their other goals regarding additional support mechanisms as well, which include allocated peer support time and an amended mentorship program. Observing a need “to provide support for the parts of grad school that aren’t academic”, says Renée, the duo hopes to implement weekly peer support sessions in which MedGen students can go discuss a particularly rough assignment, tips to acing an informational interview, or just vent about commuting on the TTC. By allocating this time, they hope that current and new students will feel they have an open and safe environment to receive the support they need.

By facilitating a strong interpersonal support network among their peers, they also hope to reinvigorate the MedGen mentorship program, whereby second-year students are paired with new first-year students to offer advice and guidance. Here, Renée and Jade hope to create more opportunities for first- and second-year students to connect, aiming to facilitate greater mentor-mentee bonds. One example of this they are prioritizing is an orientation luncheon for MedGen students, allowing students to meet and connect earlier. Recognizing the difficult transition into graduate studies, they hope these increased opportunities for connection will allow smoother transitions into and throughout the MedGen program.

Overall, Jade and Renée want their peers and fellow students to feel supported and represented by them. To ensure this, they aim to advocate for the unique perspectives and needs of their colleagues whether it is academic, professional, or social. By creating a well-supported environment for MedGen students to learn and grow, they hope it will enable students “to get [them] where you want to be” Renée explains, without the added psychosocial pressures that come along with transitioning to grad school in a big city.

We are proud to have Renée and Jade carry on the legacy of previous MedGen representatives, continuing to grow the presence and reputation of our program. We wish the best of luck to all of the new members of the Molecular Genetics GSA!