Top of the class: 10 years after school, VCE high-scorers talk life and success

A high VCE score doesn’t guarantee success, but it helps. The Weekly Review caught up with some of the top students from 2007 to find out where life has taken them 10 years on.

 

Derrick Ha

Graduated from Haileybury with an ENTER score of 99.95

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After finishing school I wanted to …

I wanted a career in medicine. I was fortunate to be awarded a full scholarship to study at the University of Melbourne and completed my medical degree in 2013.

My career so far …

My first job was working as a private mathematics tutor. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and felt that it was one of the ways I could share my knowledge and skills. I like to take a different and more practical approach to teaching, and when my students expressed how much they enjoyed this, I decided to start Derrick Ha Student Coaching Services. In my first year, I established a lecture program for students from across Victoria and spent thousands of hours writing and publishing my own mathematics books. My business celebrates its 10th year this year.

For my medical career, I completed my intern year at St Vincent’s Hospital. Although I initially planned to sub-specialise, I soon realised that my passion was in helping people at the community level. I moved to Monash Health to gain broader experience in adult and paediatric medicine before commencing specialty training in general practice. I currently work as a general practitioner and will sit my fellowship exams next year.

One unexpected benefit from being involved in teaching for the past decade is how much it has helped with my abilities as a doctor. Being able to understand students’ needs and explain things in lay terms has transferred across to the way I approach patient care.

Outside work …

I am an avid sports enthusiast and picked up golf and tennis after leaving high school. Last year, I also took the opportunity to travel the world. Most of all, I enjoy spending quality time relaxing with my closest friends and family.

To me, success means …

Achieving and exceeding goals that you have set for yourself. This doesn’t mean that you need to score 100 per cent on a test or achieve an A+ every time. Rather, I think success is a broader concept that involves always challenging yourself to grow in knowledge, skills, ability and, most importantly, happiness. Success comes in many forms, whether it be in academia, sports, relationships or any other aspect of life.

 

Yuky Cheung

Graduated from Haileybury with an ENTER score of 99.55

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After school I wanted to …

My initial plan was to study a bachelor of pharmacy because in high school I had a special bond to chemistry and biology, and my older brother was studying a master’s degree in pharmacy. I wanted to be involved in the pharmaceutical and clinical research areas.

After I started the course and learned more about the profession, I realised it was different to my initial expectations. I transferred to the University of Melbourne to study dentistry. I would encourage anyone to have the courage to make a move if they desire a change because I could not ask for a better career.

My career so far …

I completed a bachelor of dental sciences from the University of Melbourne with honours in 2013. I was elected to be one of the 11 candidates in Victoria to participate in the dental graduate program. I commenced my career working in Barwon Health in Geelong, an underserviced regional area in Victoria. The general population in Geelong has poorer oral health compared to Melbourne. I was also involved in supervising dental students, working in the mobile dental van and performing dental screenings for homeless people at a local church in Geelong.

I later joined Monash Health, where I still work today. I am committed to reaching out to lower socio-economic groups and delivering much-needed dental services within the population. I also work part-time at Yaas Dental Care, a private dental practice in Narre Warren.

Outside work …

I am a big foodie. I love trying out new restaurants and exploring different cuisines. Melbourne is blessed to have so many good and multicultural restaurants and when travelling I plan my itinerary based on the location of the restaurants. I also like to go to my local fitness centre for a swim and I love skiing in the snow season and hiking in spring/autumn. At home, I like to play piano and paint. I am also a regular at my home church – CityLife.

To me, success means …

You are able to give, to serve, and to love. When I was young, I thought success was measured by wealth. As I have matured, I learnt that wealth does not represent success. It takes dedication and hard work to achieve our goals in life. Contributing to the success of the others, serving the community and loving both what you do and those around you, this is what success means to me.

 

Laura Cantwell

Graduated from Genazzano FCJ College with an ENTER score of 99.40

twr-class-of-2007-laura-cantwell

After school I wanted to …

I was never sure what exactly I wanted to do after year 12, I just knew I enjoyed mathematics, chemistry and physics. I spent most of year 12 planning to study a bachelor of pharmacy. In the end, I decided to choose engineering due to the maths involved and the ability to have a widespread impact on society. I studied a bachelor of engineering/bachelor of commerce at Monash University.

My career so far …

Since finishing school I have started my career as a structural engineer. I started as a graduate in Melbourne with Arup, a global engineering company. As a part of a team of structural engineers, I have completed the design of a 22-storey residential tower, an eight-storey commercial building, a 15-storey commercial building and upgrades to existing commercial towers in Melbourne.

I now work in Arup’s London office on a £750 million (A$1.3 billion), five-acre [two-hectare] commercial development in London.

Outside work …

I enjoy playing netball and tennis, as well as keeping fit at the gym. Through Arup’s community engagement program, I have provided pro bono structural engineering advice and have travelled to the Northern Territory to assist in construction of the project. I also enjoy travelling and exploring the world, which is especially accessible by living in London.

To me, success means …

Being proud of what you do, having a positive impact on others and leading a happy, healthy and balanced life.

 

Laxman Tharmarajah

Graduated from Mentone Grammar with an ENTER score of 99.90

twr-class-of-2007-laxman

After school I wanted to …

From an early age, perhaps in year 9 or 10, I knew I wanted to study medicine. I am interested in both the scientific and humanitarian aspects of medicine and saw it as a great pathway to make a real impact in improving the health of an individual and their community. I did my undergraduate study at the University of Melbourne, then completed my internship at St Vincent’s Hospital and residency at Monash Hospital. I’m currently a general practice registrar as part of the Eastern Victoria GP Training Program.

My career so far …

As part of the training in general practice, we complete two years as registrars before sitting examinations to become general practitioners. I am also undertaking a diploma of child health online through the University of Sydney. I teach part-time at Monash University, tutoring to second-year medical students, which I greatly enjoy.

I am also vice-president of a new committee known as “empowerMEnt”, an organisation formed by young professionals to raise money and awareness for charities that support victims of social injustice, through fun and sociable events. We hosted a sold-out charity ball in May, raising money for Palmera Projects and the ASRC (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre).

Outside work …

I took a year off last year to travel abroad. I did some locum work in emergency medicine in country Victoria and ended up traveling overseas for four-five months, which included my cousin’s wedding in New York and then spending time in Europe and Japan.

I enjoy spending time with family and friends and my partner, and I have a nephew, now nine months old, who is the coolest person ever and so fun to hang out with.

To me, success means …

That sense of accomplishment in knowing that you have dedicated yourself to a goal or purpose, and being content with the outcome, regardless of whether that is perceived as “successful” externally. I don’t see success as being something that you can compare yourself to others, as we are all capable of different achievements and all face unique obstacles along the way. I also believe that being successful is knowing there is always room for improvement in all areas of your life and constantly progressing towards getting the best out of yourself.

 

 

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