“Practicing hospital pharmacist with interests in healthcare strategy and an unyielding duty to family.”
Hometown: Vaughan, Ontario
Fun fact about yourself: I never spoke much French growing up. In high school, I was part of a program called “Explore”, which led me to live in a small town in Quebec where I had to survive speaking only French for a month!
Undergraduate School and Degree: Honours Bachelor of Science & Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Toronto
Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? 3D PPE GTHA, a grassroots initiative that I co-founded during the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the initiative was to 3D print face shields for frontline workers amidst a supply gap of personal protective equipment.
Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. Toronto, Canada.
I worked with the dermatology team on a molecule called guselkumab, which treats moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. I was responsible for commercial tactics, the development of marketing assets, data analytics and strategy.
Where will you be working after graduation? I have accepted a return offer as a Marketing Associate at Janssen, Johnson & Johnson. I will be joining the neuroscience team.
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:
- Guest Lecturer at the University of Toronto
- Board Fellow at Hemophilia Ontario
- Opinion Writer for the Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator, Hospital News, and Healthy Debate
- Student Columnist for Poets & Quants
- James D. Fleck Entrance Award
- Student Engagement Award
- Rotman Scholar Award
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I distinctly remember this overwhelming sense of achievement when I learned that our research was accepted for publication in the British Medical Journal Global Health. The research project was on the polio elimination effort in India. It was the product of years of planning that culminated in my first year of MBA studies and it was a significant personal milestone. It also felt timely and impactful as it provided insights on vaccine strategy during the vaccination rollout for COVID-19.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? By the end of my time with 3D PPE GTHA, our volunteer initiative had manufactured 25,000 3D-printed face shields delivered to over 165 healthcare facilities in Ontario. Despite not having an engineering background or entrepreneurship experience, we rallied a large team of volunteers from people of all backgrounds. From elementary school students who received a 3D printer as a birthday present, to MBA students who had a car and could make deliveries, we showed the province of Ontario that community prevails in the face of crisis.
Why did you choose this business school? I chose Rotman because it offers a combined Doctor of Pharmacy/MBA degree which aligned with my goals to gain expertise in multiple disciplines. I knew that, as a pharmacist, I would have specialty knowledge on medications and healthcare. But the world is changing rapidly and I wanted to get ahead. Upon further research I saw that I could gain complementary skills in healthcare management and also unique skills like building financial models or data analytics that would strengthen my overall versatility as I begin my career. The prospect of learning new things excited me. From technological innovations to novel business solutions, I was sold on the offer of getting the best of both worlds.
What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? In my first year during orientation, we were introduced to the concept of “The Reciprocity Ring”, where the Rotman community pays it forward. The tradition emphasized building relationships and was supported by an online platform where members can make requests and provide offers of help. It was really interesting meeting new people during this activity and it made me more comfortable networking. It made me realize how supportive the community was at Rotman and how the power of diversity in experiences and professions was being harnessed to the full potential.
Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have liked to join more clubs! I think I was too focused on academics and I convinced myself that if I signed up for too many activities, I would not have the time for it. I definitely missed out on meeting more people and destressing with my classmates. Specifically, I wish I joined the culinary club. I later saw how fun it was and I think it would have made my student life more satisfying.
What is the biggest myth about your school? People say that Rotman and the University of Toronto in general is academically tough. I felt that while indeed the curriculum was challenging, for me it depended on the type of class I was taking. Coming from a non-quantitative background, accounting and finance courses were definitely a hurdle while classes like strategy were more manageable.
What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? For prospective students who may come from a non-business background like myself, understanding and articulating a career story was extremely important. I mapped out all my experiences and transferrable skills from my pharmacy background and I practiced what I wanted to say in my interview. Ultimately, I think the way I told my career story and why I wanted to study business as a pharmacist gave me that edge.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Bassel Hammad. Bassel always took the time to connect with others and I admired his ability to keep in touch with all his classmates. Despite the virtual classroom setting, he really went out of his way to enrich the student experience given the pandemic. I also admire his passion for real estate investment and it was rewarding to see him convert his interests to a successful career in this sector.
Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My grandmother was my inspiration to pursue an MBA. She was the only member of my family to go into management and she was successful in this despite not having completed a postsecondary education. Her strength and drive to succeed influenced my decision to study business and to follow in her footsteps.
What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Publishing a book is at the top of the list. I want to publish a novel about my grandmother’s life story of becoming a successful general manager of a factory in China. My second bucket list item would be to help launch a new drug into the Canadian market that treats depression.
How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic gave me some perspective on working remotely. There was definitely pros and cons. It saves a lot of time and effort in commuting, but you definitely miss seeing people. I felt that some aspects of work are better done in person, like pitching ideas, and I sense that the future of office workplaces will evolve towards a hybrid setting.
What made Peter such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?
“Peter Zhang brought invaluable skills as a leader, doctor of pharmacy graduate, global-health advocate, researcher, businessperson, and writer to the Rotman MBA Class of 2022.
I first met him in 2018 when he joined the Reach program at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Peter was part of a four-student team that traveled to Utter Pradesh and Bihar in India to study the final phases of the polio eradication campaign that had occurred there over the past several decades. The research that the team conducted led to the publication in a top medical journal just as the COVID pandemic hit. The insights that Peter and his classmates developed pointed to the critical role of the business community and of rigorous governance processes during public-health emergencies. Peter walked the talk by founding, while an MBA candidate, an initiative in which he and a group of medical, pharmacy and business students formed an organization to 3D-print more than 25,000 face shields that were deployed in 167 Canadian health organizations as personal protective equipment. He also wrote a series of op-eds in leading Canadian newspapers encouraging the business community to take leadership roles in COVID education and best practices for protecting public health. He is widely regarded by the faculty, staff, and his peers in the joint DPharm-MBA program for both his academic brilliance and his wisdom, humility, and compassion.
Anita McGahan is a University Professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. She also holds the George E. Connell Chair in Organizations & Society at the Rotman School.