Growing Up in Vancouver
Kerry is a born and raised Vancouverite. His grandparents emigrated to Vancouver from southern China at the turn of the century. His father, Leslie, is a retired plumber (one of the first unionized tradesmen of Chinese descent) who worked on some of the largest projects in the Lower Mainland such as the Vancouver Aquarium and Simon Fraser University. He spent over 20 years with the Vancouver School Board making sure the bathrooms worked and water flowed throughout Vancouver schools.
His mother, May is also retired after a long administrative career with the Provincial Court of British Columbia. While Kerry and his siblings were young children, May taught Chinese cooking as part of the VSB’s night school program and sold cookware.
Kerry started working when he was 13 years old at the PNE. As a student at Windermere Secondary School in East Vancouver, he worked at a number of restaurants where he washed dishes and bused tables where he learned the value of a dollar. He also worked for a number of years in a grocery store in Chinatown and on Powell Street where he became painfully aware of Vancouver's problems with addiction, poverty and homelessness. He also saw first-hand the challenges new immigrants faced in a new country and learned from them how to bring a community together to make positive changes that affect everyone.
Not a stellar high school student by any stretch of the imagination, he went to Vancouver Community College to get his grades up and went to Simon Fraser University where he obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology. From there, he went to the University of Western Ontario for a PhD, and moved home as quickly as possible to be with his then sweetheart, now wife, Vicki.
By the mid 1980s, Kerry began volunteering throughout Vancouver as an activity worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association, a relationship he continued as a Board member and supporter.
After university, Kerry again re-focused on community needs by accepting an appointment on the Board of Directors of the Open Leaning Agency from 1998 through 2001. In this role he worked to make quality education and educational programming via the Knowledge Network available to everyone in British Columbia .
In 2002 Kerry joined the Collingwood Neighbourhood House. He worked to educate parents on the risks children at local schools faced by the drug and sex trades. He sat on the Board from 2003-2005, two of those years as President. During this time he was very active working to restore funding for several community support and harm prevention programs lost to cutbacks at the municipal and provincial government levels. He also developed new programs that brought together residents, politicians, experts and the police to address the pressing issue of homeless in this community.
In 2004, Kerry worked to give Vancouver residents a greater voice at City Hall by serving as the co-chair for the “Yes for Wards” campaign.
In 2006, Kerry’s work on the homeless program was recognized with his selection as the 2006 Academic of the Year by the Confederation of Faculty Associations of British Columbia.
In 2007, in recognition of his volunteer work in Collingwood and activities across Vancouver, Kerry was honoured with a 2007 Community Achievement Award from the Province of British Columbia.
At this time, Kerry also volunteered with Think City, a citizens group devoted to promoting citizen engagement in civic affairs, such as budget consultations and policy development. With the assistance of the Tides Foundation, Kerry helped arrange a forum that brought together residents and agencies from across Vancouver to share their experiences and learn from each other on how to tackle major issues such as housing, homelessness, and addiction. The results of the forum were published in a report.
This year, the many departments that make up UBC’s Faculty of Medicine have selected Kerry for a Community Service Award for his years of volunteer and Board work that have made a real difference in people’s lives.
Today, Kerry spends much of his volunteer time with the newly established Mental Health Commission of Canada. Within this organization, Kerry was appointed to the Mental Health and the Law Advisory Committee by Michael Kirby. This committee is tasked to help set national policy and standards on mental health and to provide a knowledge exchange and assist in the creation of an anti-stigma campaign. The work of this body will directly impact municipalities like Vancouver on issues such as policing, corrections, housing standards and management for areas like the Downtown East Side along with other parts of the city.
Kerry is a frequent media commentator on city issues. He brings the voice of the community to city debates.
Parent and Husband
Kerry and his wife Vicki have two children, Nicholas and Rachel. They live in the Renfrew-Collingwood area in East Vancouver, a mere six blocks from where he grew up. Like all parents, Kerry and Vicki spend much of their time with the children going to piano, martial arts and gymnastic classes. As a family, they attend rallies and events that teach understanding and respect for different cultures, lifestyles and points-of-view.
When Kerry gets a free moment, he likes to do nautical research, build model ships and paint model soldiers with Nicholas, and help Rachel clean her hamster cage and build aquariums. Kerry has a PlayStation Personal but hasn't had much time to play games on it.
At UBC, Kerry is a Professor of Psychiatry who teaches at UBC Medical School helping train future physicians in the basic sciences.
He has received national and international awards for his research on the causes of mental illness and has authored over 100 publications and a book on the subject, which has just been translated into Japanese.
Kerry sits on the editorial boards of a number of international scientific journals. At the request of Canadian Institute of Health Research and the National Institutes of Health his expertise is sought to peer reviews public health and scientific research proposals. Kerry is an internationally sought after speaker on the role of genetics and experience on mental health, as well as a local media expert on these issues. His research in genetics is funded by competitive grants, such as CIHR.