Chapter Zero NZ celebrates first anniversary and launch of Board Toolkit
Chapter Zero NZ celebrates its first anniversary amid growing awareness of the climate challenge.
For Dr Liz Zhu, the world of governance and boards is a dramatic shift from working directly with patients.
Originally from Philadelphia, Dr Liz Zhu is a former orthopaedic surgeon who has been working full-time for Boston Consulting Group (BCG) – a firm with more than 100 offices in over 50 countries. In 2022, she helped open a New Zealand office.
The consultant has been dipping her toes into the increasingly fast-paced and ever-changing waters of governance and has just finished a board placement with Pharmac. The world of governance and boards is a dramatic shift from her previous life working with patients.
“As a surgeon, you directly and immediately see your work benefit the patient, whereas, from a governance point of view, you are further away from the patient, but you end up creating benefit for more people,” says Dr Zhu, whose interest in governance comes from a consumer-centric focus. “Because of my experiences in health care, I am passionate about centering care around patients and whānau,” she says.
Connecting with the Future Directors’ programme and sitting on the board of Pharmac aligned with her background, and what started as a one-year placement was extended to two years.
She joined Pharmac in late 2020, just after New Zealand hit a standstill with the onset of Covid-19. She says Pharmac’s team worked hard through the challenges of the pandemic, especially around supply chain and procurement of medication.
“As a surgeon, you directly and immediately see your work benefit the patient, whereas, from a governance point of view, you are further away from the patient, but you end up creating benefit for more people.”
Throughout her placement, the organisation was also undergoing a lot of change, including becoming more transparent with an increasing focus on engagement with consumers. “I have been really honoured to be at the table of an organisation that is doing so much for New Zealanders. We have all personally benefited from the work of Pharmac,” she says.
Drawing on her experience with healthcare in the US, she says on a surgeon’s salary she was struggling to pay for her medications. “It would cost US$190 a month just for allergy eye drops with good insurance, and with student loans and the cost of living in New York, it was hard to afford,” she says. Now based in New Zealand, prescription medication is much more accessible because of Pharmac.
During her two-year stint with the organisation, she felt welcomed by management and the board and speaks highly of the opportunity to receive mentorship by directors and governors at the highest level in New Zealand. “I loved the experience. It was incredibly gratifying to be working with people with such purpose and passion for what they do.”
She says those interested in pursuing a governance path or other types of leadership or management positions would benefit from the programme and develop a deeper understanding of how boards and management interact.