McGill award for engaging young alumnus
April 3, 2019
The night before leaving Jamaica to pursue undergraduate studies at McGill University, Dave D’Oyen received an email from the University of the West Indies (UWI) indicating he had been accepted into the Faculty of Medicine.
Having secured his visa to travel to Canada along with a Certificate of Acceptance of Quebec and Study Permit required to attend the Montreal public research university which admitted him six months earlier in 2010 as an international student, it was too late to change course.
Before choosing McGill, studying in Germany was an attractive option for D’Oyen as some of the country’s states were offering low-cost or completely free tuition.
“The challenge was, however, the German language requirements,” he said. “Very few programs are offered in English at the undergraduate level, but they seem to be increasing.”
It was through the QS World University Rankings that McGill appeared on his radar.
“The University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia were also in the top tier of Canadian universities on the list, but McGill was the only one offering financial aid for international students,” said D’Oyen who graduated from Campion College in 2010. “I figured this is the only place I might have a chance and I decided to give it a shot. To be honest, I really didn’t believe I stood a chance of being accepted and I was shocked when I got that letter of admission.”
Aspiring at the time to be Jamaica’s chief medical officer, D’Oyen explored entering McGill’s Faculty of Medicine program.
“They offer medicine in three streams, including the MBA where I was drawn to,” he pointed out. “I figured I would need the administrative and business skills along with the lived experience of being a doctor. I thought that program would be ideal, but finding the funds to study abroad would be challenging. That’s why I also applied to the UWI Faculty of Medicine which has a great reputation.”
Unable to pursue medical education at McGill because of the exorbitant cost, D’Oyen majored in Human Resources with minors in Marketing and German.
The 2013 graduate returns to the campus next month to be recognized with the James G. Wright Award presented to a young alumnus/alumna who has demonstrated exemplary service and made a difference in their community.
A community volunteer, mentor and the first president of the McGill Young Alumni Association, Wright – who died in a gas explosion at his cottage 12 years ago – would be proud of this year’s recipient.
Moving to Toronto in September 2014 in search of job opportunities, D’Oyen attended a Toronto Community Housing event where he caught the attention of some Black police officers.
“I made some comments during a breakout session on policing and while sitting alone at a table during the lunch break, three officers came over to my table and indicated that they liked my contribution,” he recalled.
Stacy Clarke, who was promoted to Inspector last January, invited D’Oyen to join the Police & Community Engagement Review (PACER) that re-evaluated the way in which law enforcement engages with the community.
“That was really my first community engagement in Toronto,” he said. “It was a long but worthwhile journey. I learnt a lot about the culture of policing and the importance of working with institutions like the police to effect change that benefit them and the community they serve.”
D’Oyen also volunteered with the Black Community Consultative Committee, the Black Health Alliance, the Toronto Newcomer Council, the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network Citizens’ Panel and the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto Community Advisory Committee.
Though employed full-time as a City of Toronto Equity & Diversity consultant, he still finds time to volunteer with the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine MD Admissions Patient Engagement Committee and the Lifelong Leadership Institute that administers the Leadership by Design Program that provides at least seven years of developmental support for Toronto high school students.
Prior to joining the City of Toronto last month, D’Oyen was a Shopify Inclusion & Innovation Builder and an Independent Street Checks Review Community Outreach & Consultation Advisor.
Three years ago, he captured the interest of Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch who led the Independent Police Oversight Review.
“Dave was part of a youth consultative group and I was very impressed with his engagement and knowledge of the issues,” said Tulloch. “He is extremely intelligent and was one of the most engaging people throughout that consultation period. He left a very positive impression on me and so when I was asked by the government to do the second review, I thought this kid would be a good addition to bring a youth perspective to my team and also a perspective from a young man that’s engaged in the Black community. He certainly did deliver.”
Every year, the McGill Alumni Association recognizes outstanding alumni, students, friends, faculty and staff for exceptional service.
This year’s banquet takes place on May 8.
Gratified by the McGill honour, D’Oyen said the university experience is priceless.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” he said. “That is where I met people from all walks of life and built one of my biggest networks. McGill is a smaller version of the United Nations in that you can find people from all over the world there. The environment is even more palatable because there’s a balance of academic and social life. Students take the time to engage on campus in extracurricular activities and party just as hard as they study. McGill just has that ‘je ne sais quoi’ about the community where you can’t find anywhere else. Students are lifelong friends. It was just a great introduction to Canada.”
D’Oyen entered McGill when Dr. Heather Munroe-Blum was the Principal and Vice-Chancellor. The first woman to serve in that role was a vocal champion for education accessibility and increasing financial support for students, academics and research.
Munroe-Blum was one of D’Oyen sponsors.
“She actively looked for opportunities for me,” he said. “It was her vision that anyone who got accepted to McGill wouldn’t turn down the offer of admission because of financial constraints. She has a big heart.”
Just three months before D’Oyen started his university education, McGill ended a nine-year fundraising campaign that netted over $1 billion.
Most of the money raised was used for supporting students and student-related programs at McGill.
“I benefitted from those donors,” he noted.
Now, D’Oyen – who recently applied for Canadian citizenship -- wants to give back and make an even bigger contribution to the country that opened doors for him.