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Entrepreneurship award for graduate medical student

By Sharon Gray

Mike Wahl, a PhD graduate student in the Faculty of Medicine, and co-founder of Definitions Wellness Safety Services, has been named the Graduate Student Entrepreneur Global Champion by the Entrepreneurs Organization. The award was given as a specialized category within the 2011 Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.

Mr. Wahl advanced to represent Canada at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards after being named the national champion by Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship (ACE). As the top graduate student entrepreneur in Canada, he travelled to the 2011 GSEA global finals, held Nov. 17-19 in New York City, where he took to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to present his business to an international panel of entrepreneurs, renowned journalists and business luminaries.

Amy Harder, president of ACE, said Mr. Wahl is an inspiration and role model for young people all over the world.

"Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many students from Memorial University of Newfoundland, through our Students in Free Enterprise and student entrepreneur programs," wrote Ms. Harder in a letter to Dr. James Rourke, dean of medicine. "I have come to learn that there is a reason why so many exceptional leaders come from your institution – it is because of the leadership of faculty and administrators like you. Mike's success, among so many others, is a reflection of Memorial University. Simply put, you produce the kind of leaders who do, can and will change the world."

Mr. Wahl's doctoral supervisors are Drs. Christopher Kovacs and Gerry Mugford. His thesis is on hormonal response to lifestyle in middle-aged overweight men.
More than eight years ago, Mr. Wahl and his business partner Mike O'Neil saw an opportunity to bring personal training services to the St. John's market. They opened a fitness facility and through hard work and determination built a respected brand and a solid client group. Many of his clients worked in the oil and gas sector and as they started seeing positive results, they asked him to bring his services to their offices and industrial sites including offshore oil rigs.

Through this, he realized his company had a unique opportunity to serve corporate clients as well, and over the years the company's focus has shifted to specializing in individual health, safety and wellness concerns for both individuals and companies.

For clients in Canada, the United States and even Africa, Definitions addresses physiology-based safety: wellness personnel travel directly to work sites, including offshore oil and gas establishments, factory and office settings, to improve the wellness and safety culture of the organization. The company now has 27 employees and offices in St. John's, Halifax and Houston, Texas.

Mr. Wahl said the Graduate Student Entrepreneur Global Champion Award is a validation of the company and the teamwork that has gone into building a successful company.

"This is the ultimate recognition for the Definitions team and a great way to celebrate all of our hard work. I am so proud of everyone involved."