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OISE alum Dr. Mark Wade awarded Governor General’s Gold Medal

Child psychology grad with 4.0 GPA among three U of T students to receive prestigious award

June 18, 2018

By Kaitlyn Balkovec

Photo of Mark Wade

OISE alumnus Dr. Mark Wade considered a career as an anthropologist, pediatrician and even a journalist before dedicating himself to studying child psychology — a decision that’s more than paying off: the PhD grad was recently honoured with the Governor General’s Gold Medal – one of the most prestigious awards a Canadian graduate student can receive.

Despite having an extensive research career and studying at a number of world renowned academic institutions — he is currently a Banting Fellow at Harvard Medical School — Dr. Wade, who graduated in 2017, says receiving the award came as a complete shock.

“The winners are always so impressive in their respective fields, and it’s a real honour to stand alongside them and hear about their interesting work,” he said. “To receive that recognition myself was a bit overwhelming.”

The Governor General’s award is given annually and recognizes graduate students with exceptional academic achievement. Winners are chosen based on academic standing, thesis work and defence, along with originality and significance of research.

Given that criteria, his receiving the award may not be such a surprise to those who know him.  Dr. Wade, whose studies in the department of Applied Psychology and Human Development (APHD) focused on children’s mental health, completed his degree with a 4.0 GPA.

Quoting a Canadian writer and fellow University of Toronto alumnus, the native of Ancaster, Ont., cites a number of reasons for his success.

“Malcolm Gladwell said, ‘Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur.’ There were so many small instances, conditions, and circumstances at different times…which had a big impact on me, and sometimes for reasons I can’t explain,” he said. “But it’s clear to me that my environment and all the supportive people in it got me to this point. That and a lot of hard work.”

Dr. Wade recently spoke with OISE News about his research, experience at OISE, and what he’s most excited for in the future. Read below to learn more about this extraordinary graduate.


Photo of the University of Toronto's 2018 recipients of the Governor Generalís Gold Medal

The University of Toronto's 2018 recipients of the Governor General's Gold Medal. From left to right: David Sandomierski, Mark Wade, and David McLagan. Photo by Fong De Caterina.

What did your PhD research at OISE involve?

My PhD research focused on factors that increase vulnerability to psychopathology in children over the first five years of life. I looked at cognitive factors like poor language, biomedical factors like low birth weight, as well as a number of environmental and genetic factors.

Really what I was interested in is how these factors combine in unique ways to predict children’s mental health problems, with the hope that we might be able to identify those children who are at the greatest risk of later difficulties, so we can intervene early in development.

Why did you choose the APHD program at OISE for your doctoral studies?

My choice of APHD primarily revolved around being able to work with Dr. Jenny Jenkins, who was my advisor for the last seven years and who I continue to work with today. She is such a prolific and inspiring mentor. Her work in developmental and clinical psychology has greatly improved our knowledge of how risk and protective factors operate within families to shape children’s outcomes. She gave me all the tools I needed to have success, and I’m so grateful to her for that.

There are so many good researchers in APHD who are all doing very important and interesting work in different aspects of school, clinical, and developmental psychology. The program provides strong clinical and research training by world-class scholars and practitioners, and being able to learn from them was a big part of the draw.

How did your time at OISE prepare you for what came next in your career or impact the work you are doing today?

I found the APHD program to be very balanced in terms of research and clinical work. On the research end of things, I was immersed in a lab with first-class statistical and methods expertise, and was able to learn from Dr. Jenkins but also the many postdoctoral and graduate students who have been in the lab over the years. It was such a collegial and collaborative environment, and it showed me the benefits of working alongside others to really make meaningful discoveries. Sharing those discoveries with others was always one of the most rewarding experiences.

The lab really taught me about professionalism, and about confronting problems head on with enthusiasm, skepticism, and an open mind. Those skills have been very useful as I’ve transitioned to other positions. On the clinical end of things, my time at OISE, and my training at CAMH and Sick Kids equipped me for my roles as a clinical resident at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Seattle Children’s Hospital last year. I felt prepared and valued as a clinical trainee while there, and don’t know that I would have gotten into such a prestigious program without the confluence of skills I attained during graduate school.

What does the future hold for you?

“I’m getting married in a month – so that’s the most timely goal! I’m headed to the Annual Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany right before that, which is a very exciting opportunity. Following that, I’m just looking forward to continuing my work with Dr. Charles Nelson at Harvard, which has been incredible so far, and then looking for a job! My hope is to land a faculty job in clinical and/or developmental psychology, as I really enjoy the tripartite role of teaching, research, and practice. But because of my great training in several spheres, I think the road is wide open right now, and I’m just interested to see where it leads.”