Faces of U of T Medicine: Zack Blatman

Aug 17, 2018

Zack Blatman is eager to meet his classmates and immerse himself in the UofTMed community. As he prepares to join the MD Class of 2T2, he reflects on the childhood experiences that got him interested in medicine and who’s helped him along the way.

What made you want to become a doctor?

When I was thirteen months old, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Luckily, I don’t remember much about what happened to me for the next 3 years while I was receiving treatment at SickKids. I remember constantly being poked by scary needles and prodded by doctors who were examining me. I remember going to the hospital to get chemotherapy and coming home feeling sick and tired. I remember, more than anything, having a strong support system of healthcare professionals and family surrounding me.

My past experiences with cancer have shaped me into the resilient, compassionate and appreciative person I am today. They have also inspired me to pursue a career in medicine in order to support others throughout their journey with illness, as I know firsthand what it is like to feel helpless, scared and uncomfortable in one’s own skin as a patient.

Have you had mentors or role models who’ve helped you along the way?

Over the last couple of summers, I have had the immense privilege of conducting leukemia research under the supervision of Dr. Aaron Schimmer, a senior scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Personally and professionally, Dr. Schimmer has served as a tremendous source of inspiration for me, as he has introduced me to the meaningful rewards of pursuing a career as a clinician-scientist. I truly admire his commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of individuals afflicted with cancer - both on individual patients through clinical care and, more broadly, on the field of oncology through basic science research.

What specialty do you hope to pursue and why?

As a childhood leukemia survivor, I have always wanted to become a pediatric hematologist/oncologist in order to give back to my dedicated care team and pave the way for future advances in cancer research.

How did it feel when you got your acceptance letter?

I was actually in a taxi in Singapore when I received the acceptance letter! I immediately burst into tears and started screaming at the top of my lungs. The driver ended up pulling over the car because he thought I was having a heart attack! After taking some time to compose myself, I called my family and friends back in Toronto to share the good news, and listened patiently to my Mom bawl her eyes out on the phone.

What are you most looking forward to as a UofTMed student?

I am really excited to meet my fellow classmates! The next four years will be an incredible opportunity to forge lasting friendships while learning alongside like-minded, highly motivated students. I am also looking forward to moving downtown and immersing myself in the bustling city centre.

What do you think will be the most exciting thing about living in Toronto?

I am really excited to be living so close to campus and immersing myself in the medical student lifestyle. Toronto has so many amazing restaurants – I’m really looking forward to exploring those and trying different cuisines from around the world!

What do you like to do outside of school?

Outside of the classroom, I am quite committed to leading an active lifestyle. Over the last several years, I have successfully lost over 80 pounds through healthy eating and exercise. You can usually find me on the treadmill or elliptical at the gym, although I also enjoy playing intramural inner tube water polo and floor hockey. I also like to invite friends and family over to experiment with nutritious recipes in the kitchen. On cheat days, I love exploring dessert places around Toronto.


Faces of U of T Medicine introduces you to some of the interesting people studying in the Faculty of Medicine. From advising political leaders to providing care to Toronto’s most vulnerable populations, members of our community are having an impact at home and around the world.

Do you have an interesting story to share? Contact us at medicine.communications@utoronto.ca.

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