Top U of T female science grad overcomes adversity, pursues plans to combat health inequalities

Tuesday, June 23, 2020 - 3:08pm
Patricia Lonergan

Dariya Darvin knows what it takes to succeed. The bachelor of science graduate overcame financial hardship, held down a job while pursuing her degree, carved out time to volunteer on campus and in the community and still managed to achieve top marks.

The U of T Mississauga student, who has been accepted to U of T’s Faculty of Medicine, is the winner of the Rose Sheinin Award, which is presented to the top female science student at U of T.

“I knew I had good grades, but I didn’t think I’d get an award like this,” Darvin says. “I know many of my peers are so smart.”

It’s not the only award Darvin received. She was also the recipient of a U of T Student Leadership Award, which recognizes outstanding student leadership, service and commitment to the university. These are just the latest in a list of awards and scholarships the Mississauga resident has earned since she began her studies at UTM.

Darvin says she appreciates the awards she has received, explaining she came to Canada from India in 2015 at the end of Grade 12. As a new immigrant, she says she faced some financial hardships. She received an entrance scholarship and some “small awards” that “added up” and were “extremely helpful.”

“Any financial support made a difference, especially in first year,” says Darvin, who initially found it challenging to adapt to a different education system in a new country.

“At times I was super stressed, and I couldn’t concentrate,” she recalls.

That struggle is why she signed up for any event or program she could through the Centre for Student Engagement during her first two years at UTM. She says it gave her a chance to meet upper-year students, make friends and receive guidance from professional staff.

“It really helped me,” she says, adding that UTM became like a second home. “I have so many wonderful memories.”

By second year Darvin started working at the Office of Student Transition and Student Engagement. It was her first job on campus. She would go on to become a teaching assistant and later an academic don for the summer mentorship program at U of T’s Faculty of Medicine.

Between her job and studies, Darvin still found time to get involved in various activities. She volunteered with the Health and Counselling Centre, Accessibility Services and the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre. She also worked on policy issues for the student union.

Off campus she continued to make an impact as a mentor for the Indigenous Spirit Journey Program run by the Riverwood Conservancy and UTM’s Centre for Student Engagement. Calling it “one of the best experiences,” Darvin mentored students from a high school alternative program, showing them that university is a viable option.

Between work and volunteering, she still managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA. She says she never aimed for such a high standard, but once she got good grades, she wanted to keep it up.

Darvin credits her busy schedule for her academic success. By being so deeply involved, she found a support system, made friends, had fun, created ways to relieve stress and embrace the university experience. It also helped her schedule her time more efficiently.

“Having the right balance is extremely productive,” Darvin says.

Her varied interests and activities are also evident in her multidisciplinary studies.

The first day Darvin stepped foot on campus, she had a clear goal in mind: to become a doctor. This fall she’ll take the next step toward achieving that goal when she joins U of T’s Faculty of Medicine. Her path toward medical school, however, hasn’t been straightforward. Even with a specific goal in mind, Darvin let her interests and passions guide her academic journey.

Originally a life sciences student, she shifted direction after taking a first-year calculus class. Darvin says she enjoyed it so much she took another math class over the summer and “fell in love.” She switched her major to mathematics.

Being mindful that her plan was still to head to medical school, she kept biology as a minor.

Meanwhile, her interest in geography led her to take a first year Geographic Information Systems (GIS) course. She saw how applicable it was to her goal of working in public health, discovering how she could use GIS to improve health care delivery.

“I did it because I like it, but once I was into it, it fell into place,” Darvin says. “I saw the connections.”

Darvin graduated with a major in mathematics and a double minor in biology and GIS.

Darvin says the multidisciplinary approach has allowed her to look at health through different lenses. “It looks like a mix, but it ties together.”

Following medical school, her plan is to use that mix of knowledge – she refers to it as a “jack of all trades” – to work with an interdisciplinary team of public health experts dedicated to reducing inequalities in access to healthcare.