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Maxwell Tran

Harnessing Health Narratives 

The son of Vietnamese refugees, Maxwell Tran was drawn to both art and science. In 2012, he founded Ink Movement Canada, a nonprofit organization that empowers youth to use the arts as tools for social change.

In addition to the 10 anthologies of poetry, short stories, and photography published by the group, Tran also published poetry in literary journals about his family’s history. 

“Time and again, my clinical experiences have reinforced that there is a bigger picture to health than health care alone.” 

When he attended medical school later at the University of Toronto, he harnessed the power of narratives in a different way—to understand his patients’ experiences and deliver the best care. Tran sought out opportunities to work with underserved populations, particularly low-income patients and migrant workers. 

Several formative experiences encouraged his interest in public health. In one instance, a patient to whom he’d prescribed an important medication told him at a follow-up appointment that she hadn’t taken it because she couldn’t afford it, leading to a collaborative effort to address unmet social needs. In another, while working as a consultative member of Canada’s Migrant Worker Health-Expert Working Group, he helped to investigate the deaths of migrant agricultural workers in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic, exposing systemic failures in worker protections. 

Now a Public Health and Preventive Medicine resident at the University of Toronto, Tran plans to use his MPH from the Bloomberg School to help him become a public health physician in Canada, while maintaining a clinical practice in family medicine. 

“I want to be someone who treats the symptoms of illness but also its root causes,” he says.