Although no longer a practicing physiotherapist, Derek Mah, BA’96, BSc (Phys Ther)’99, LLB’03, has been able to merge his education in physical therapy and law in order to help people with personal injury litigation.
Describe what you do, in a few sentences.
I received my Bachelors of Science in Physical Therapy from UBC in 1999 and practiced full time for a year before returning to law school. I worked as a physiotherapist throughout law school and graduated from UBC School of Law in 2003. Now, I practice personal injury litigation.
What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
My family – I have a wonderful wife, who is also a UBC graduate and works as a social worker at Vancouver General Hospital, and 2 children, 15 and 13 years old.
Please list a few of your current accolades/awards received, volunteer positions, and/or past job positions.
Outside of work, I devote the majority of my time to coaching youth sports. I am an assistant coach for my son’s ice hockey team and the head coach of my daughter’s soccer team. Working with children is fantastic – they are full of raw excitement which is a good reminder to live in the moment.
Name the last book you couldn’t put down.
I am an avid hockey fan and enjoyed reading Wayne Gretzky’s Stories of the Game. It was very insightful to see how one of the greatest hockey players strategized and thought about the game.
What is the best professional advice you’ve received?
Focus on doing good work and everything else will fall in place. I know that many young professionals worry about income especially if living in Vancouver and this advice was very true for me. It may sound cliché but if you do good work, you will be rewarded.
What is your favourite UBC memory?
One of my fondest memories was my first day in rehab school. At that time, the first-year physical therapy and occupational therapy students shared most classes together. A professor welcomed us and said that we fought like sharks to get into the program but now, we could play like dolphins. The metaphor was very true as many of my closest friends and best memories are from my time in rehab.
What is your next challenge/goal?
I would like to participate in a volunteer project such as building a school or doing missionary work.
Please name a few of your favourite hobbies and activities.
As a teenager, I enjoyed playing hockey and painting. In high school, I put both of them together and began to paint hockey players. Then, my friend and I painted the Canuckmobile – a car decorated with Vancouver Canucks players. More recently, I have been painting custom hockey figures and did a set for my son’s hockey team last season.
Name something that is on your bucket list. Have you completed it?
As a child, I did not have the opportunity to travel outside of North America and so, travelling the world is on my bucket list. We went to Australia and New Zealand last year and hope to do Europe and Africa soon.
What are the best aspects of your career?
I enjoy working with people especially when I am able to bring a resolution to such a traumatic time of their lives. In many ways, the ability to work with people during these times reminds me of why I chose a physiotherapy career.
What are the most challenging aspects of your career?
On the flip side, working with people can be very challenging as well. Navigating the legal system and understanding legal language is often daunting and overwhelming. I have learned that patience and listening are two attributes that will serve you well no matter what career you choose.
What is one question you’re often asked about your career?
Why did you leave physiotherapy to become a lawyer? I do not have a great answer to that question. At the time, I decided to write the LSAT and see if I would be accepted to law school. After graduating, I found that personal injury litigation allowed me to combine both interests together.