Top 40 Under 40
by Deb Cummings, Office of Advancement, with files from Avenue Magazine
Nearly 400 people whooped it up at the sold-out Top 40 Under 40 gala, hosted by Calgary Avenue Magazine at the Jack Singer Concert Hall.
On Nov. 4, some 42 honorees (20 of whom have UCalgary connections) accepted their awards before a packed crowd of co-workers, families and special guests, following a private reception in which the honorees shared some of their funniest university memories with us. This generation of movers and shakers are doctors, artists, researchers, entrepreneurs and innovative nonprofit and civic leaders who still find time to give back and volunteer in their communities.
From guilty pleasures to favourite profs and spots on campus, discover more about each of the 20 impressive honorees with UCalgary connections in this three-part series.
In Part One, you’ll meet: Dr. Tito Daodu, Heather Buchanan, Peter Hemminger, Dr. Ryan Todd and Rachel Wade.
Dr. Tito Daodu, Pediatric General Surgery Fellow, Division of General Surgery, UCalgary
Dr. Tito Daodu, MD, 32, has been dubbed a “beacon for our community,” and “someone who walks the talk,” by fans from Winnipeg (where she and her family emigrated when she was eight) to as far as Tanzania (where Daodu, as a medical student, co-developed a project that focused on adolescent gender and reproductive health).
You’ve said that pediatric surgeons have the best job in the world. Why? They don’t just save lives, they save lifetimes. When we help the worst off or those with the least access, we do a service to the entire system.
Do you miss anything about student life? I miss the time that I had as a student to make and foster new relationships with people. During my time as a student, I met so many interesting people from different walks of life and it was great to be able to get to know each other without any of the same time pressures that I have now. You didn’t have to organize seeing someone in two weeks or a month’s time . . . you would just see them at the cafeteria the next day.
Do you have any advice for students? I think the experience is not worth it if you only learn the material in your courses. Of course, you should work hard to learn your course material but you should also find mentors, make connections, and take time to figure out how you learn and the kinds of things that make you excited. You may never use your degree in your day-to-day life (I don’t do any of the botany that I did in undergrad!), however, the skillset and networks you gain are truly invaluable.
If you went back to school, what would you take? I would get a theatre degree. I started taking one and regret never getting to finish.
Who are your biggest heroes? Perhaps a bit predictable, but Michelle Obama. She is an incredible woman — smart, talented and my inspiration for workouts. Her arms are my goals.
What are you watching or reading these days? I’m watching Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. I Just discovered it a few weeks ago and can’t believe I was missing out for so long! It’s an outstanding show. I’m not reading much more than medical textbooks, but I have been listening to the audiobook Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? Everyone should go on a safari! Or an arctic cruise (which I’ve actually never done). I think it’s important for everyone to spend hours and hours admiring the wonders of our world, the incredible diversity and resilience of this great planet.
Heather Buchanan, Artist
Heather Buchanan, BFA’12, has parlayed her pop-culture talents into creating portraits for Netflix and has had her art posted by Instagram’s official account, and her work has racked up more than 15,000 sales in more than 40 countries. Considered a true disruptor in the Canadian art world, Buchanan is only 33.
Most of your work is loaded in visual puns and is comical. Have you ever produced anything serious? Back in 2018, the Globe and Mail commissioned me to illustrate the 10 people who were killed in the Toronto van attack. There were a lot of details in those portraits that I hope helped tell a deeper story.
What do you miss about student life? I miss the Art Department. Sure, it was small, scrappy and on top of a parkade. But it was totally saturated with thoughtful and talented art students.
What is one of the top lessons you learned at UCalgary? I learned a lot during critiques. I had some brutal ones where everyone just tore me down. And I had some where the class fawned over my paintings. The complimentary critiques felt great, but taught me nothing. So I learned how to take criticism — by setting aside my feelings and sifting through harsh words, trying to objectively determine what is and isn’t helpful.
Any advice for new students? I guess this one is specifically for art students: Some art profs may not be aware of current trendy artists, so it might be tempting to copy something you saw on Instagram to get a good grade. Don’t do it. You’re cheating yourself out of the opportunity to learn more about your own artistic voice, and that’s more valuable than a good critique. You’re not there for grades or praise. You’re there with an amazing opportunity to learn about the world and about yourself.
What’s a significant memory that you have from UCalgary?
I wrote my honours thesis in rhyming verse.
Can you imagine anything worse?
Quite a challenge for a lengthly essay,
But it proved worthwhile — I got an A.
What’s a funny moment that you remember from UCalgary? I had a life-sized self-portrait painting sitting on an easel during a class discussion, and my prof started talking to it, thinking it was actually me. The best part was that she couldn’t really criticize my technique after that.
What do you wish you knew more about? Geography, American history and sports trivia. But only because I secretly want to go on Jeopardy someday, and those are my weakest categories.
Peter Hemminger, executive director, Quickdraw Animation Society
Peter Hemminger, BComm’05, MA’13, 36, misses two things about university life: (1) “The chance to spend time thinking about a single topic that interested me and really diving into its nuances; (2) the unreasonable amount of time I spent at the Gauntlet, pretending we knew how to run a newspaper.”
What is one of the top lessons you learned at UCalgary? Sometimes, what feels like a distraction or a tangent is actually the path you should follow. Courses that I took as options completely outside of my degree, or clubs that I joined as a distraction, have ended up more relevant to my career than what I thought I was there to study.
Do you have any advice for new students? Take some time to think about what you actually want out of university. It’s easy to think of university like it’s an extension of high school, but it’s different. You’re there by choice, so think about what you want to get out of it, and be open to opportunities that come up that are outside of what you expected.
To what do you attribute your current success? I think about 80 per cent of it is just being pretty easy to work with, and the rest is a mix of luck and trying to be thoughtful about what I do. I’ve had the chance to work with and learn from some really amazing people, so I just try to be the kind of person that they would want to keep working with.
What are you watching or reading these days? For some reason, I’ve been on a real “weird fiction” kick lately — watching old Twilight Zone episodes, listening to creepy radio plays from the 1940s, and reading old pulp stories about strange cosmic forces creeping into our reality and driving people mad. I’m trying not to read too much into all that.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? Travel somewhere where you are clearly out of place — where you don’t know the language, where you look different from everyone else and where you have to struggle to do things the locals find easy. It’s important to know how it feels to be on the outside of a system, and to appreciate how important even small acts of kindness are when you’re in that position.
What do you wish you knew more about? I love reading about theoretical physics and how completely strange and unintuitive the universe is on a fundamental level. It’d be great if I could understand it on a deeper level than just skimming an article and saying, “Wow, that’s crazy.”
Dr. Ryan Todd, CEO, headversity; Psychiatrist, Foothills Medical Centre; Clinical Lecturer, Department of Psychiatry, Cumming School of Medicine, UCalgary
Thirty-three year-old Dr. Ryan Todd, BHSc’08, MD’12, psychiatrist and CEO of headversity, will never forget his two worst jobs — hauling cattle manure and replacing roof shingles in 30-degree heat. Both jobs, he writes, fuelled his desire to become a doctor, as did one particular professor — Dr. Charles Mather, PhD’99. “Dr. Mather is smart, interesting and interested,” Todd writes. “And he was the only prof who knew more than I did about CFL football!”
What is the most annoying question that people ask you? “You grew up in Saskatchewan, eh? . . . Could you see your dog run away for 10 days?” (Followed by one-sided, uproarious laughter.)
What’s a significant memory from UCalgary? In undergrad, I received a research grant to study Colobus monkeys in Central Ghana. That was amazing!
What do you miss about student life? Being introduced to a new idea every day.
Do you have any advice for new students? Even if you are unsure of exactly what the final goal is, work toward something!
What is one of your guilty pleasures? In undergrad, I loved reading “Three Lines Free” every week.
What is headversity? A startup I founded that measures, tracks and trains mental health resilience among employees in the workplace. Right now, we employ eight people and have partnered with more than 10 organizations. So far, we’ve raised $1 million from angel investors and it’s valued at $5 million.
Tell us about A Dark Room. During my medical residency, I helped fundraise and produce a documentary to raise awareness of mental health in hockey. I was endorsed by the National Film Board of Canada and it is now screened in high school physical education classes.
Rachel Wade, manager of Global Diversity & Inclusion, Culture & Engagement, Parkland Fuel; Board President, Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society
Thirty-five year-old Rachel Wade, BA’08, was selected as a Top 40 inductee for her tenacity and influence in promoting diversity and inclusion in workplaces. She’s also a firecracker when it comes to fundraising — Wade helped the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society acquire $475,000 in funding when it was just six months away from being shuttered.
What is one of the top lessons you learned at UCalgary? To ask lots of questions and how to work well under pressure.
If you went back to school, what would you take? I would become a lawyer. I’ve always loved a good debate and getting into the minutiae of why circumstances are the way that they are. Being a lawyer would allow me to be an ally in a tactical and powerful way for those that may need support the most.
Did you have a favourite professor? Yes — Dr. Ronald Glasberg. I have “Honour your curiosity” tattooed on my foot, which is something he said to my class when reflecting on the concept of genius. He taught me to think far outside the box, to be accountable for my own success and to be comfortable with being inquisitive.
To what do you attribute your current success? To being strategic, empathetic and uncompromising in holding up integrity and inclusion as central values. I’ve also had many helpful, allies, mentors and sponsors along the route of my career — to whom I will always be grateful.
What are you currently watching or reading? Right now, I’m reading I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb. For podcasts, I’m listening to 99% Invisible by Roman Mars, The Colour Gap by Susy Ko and Shahzia Noorally, and Women at Work by Harvard Business Review (to name a few).
What do you wish you knew more about? Blockchain and artificial intelligence. I’m curious how equity and inclusion will play a role in these technologies as they continue to grow in importance within our local and global societies.