"People underestimate me all the time because of my age," says Nadiah Wan. "However, proving them wrong is the way to do it."
The 35-year-old, strutting a pair metallic pink heels, saunters into the busy hallway of Thomson Hospital in Kota Damansara; a ripple of chatter surrounds the smiling Nadiah as she wishes staff members 'good morning'.
When I was little, I wanted to be so many different things; something cool like a forensic anthropologist even. I knew that I was really passionate about science.
Ten years ago, Nadiah was a student completing her master’s degree at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Today, the fresh-faced, mother-of-one is Executive Director and Group CEO of TMC Life Sciences, an integrated healthcare platform that operates six TMC Fertility Centres across Malaysia and the flagship Kota Damansara hospital, of which she also serves as CEO.
“When I was little, I wanted to be so many different things; something cool like a forensic anthropologist even. I knew that I was really passionate about science."
“I think being in healthcare is perfect because it is about the people as much as it is about the science and technology."
“When I attended Harvard, I worked in a lab at Boston Children’s Hospital. Although I enjoyed the science part of researching, there wasn't much people management involved," Nadiah relates her early experience of wanting a career not confined to a lab.
"Hospital management has been the perfect balance between managing people, leadership, and science,” says Nadiah, who also holds a degree in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard University.
As Nadiah glances at the Fitbit on her wrist, she chuckles softly with her staff members while discussing about the amount of calories they’ve burned that morning. “It’s hard to exercise because I never have the time,” she says with a smile.
“At TMC Life Sciences, we are having a one million step challenge. So, we are trying to get all the staff to wear fitness trackers and record their steps every day. People work long hours here and we try to inculcate good habits.”.
BRINGING TMC LIFE SCIENCES TO GREATER HEIGHTS
An industry high-flier, Nadiah was formerly the COO of Sunway Medical Centre, where she oversaw the full suite of clinical services and operations. She also rose the ranks quickly; Nadiah joined Sunway in 2009 and after stints in business development and corporate communications, she became COO in 2016.
The task at hand at TMC Life Sciences is clear - to grow the healthcare provider's capacity, services and geographical footprint. High expectations are laid on the shoulders of the young and whip-smart CEO.
The group is expanding its presence in Johor through the Thomson Iskandar Medical Hub, which includes a 500-bed Hospital Iskandariah.
“We already have an IVF clinic in Johor," says Nadiah. "Opening a hospital is a natural way of expanding our business there.”
TMC Life Sciences started as a small fertility clinic in Damansara Utama in 1994 before growing into a multi-disciplinary healthcare group it is today. Its fertility division contributes about 20 per cent to the group's revenue.
"Today we have six clinics across Malaysia spanning from Penang to Ipoh, Klang Valley to Johor Bahru.”
TMC Life Sciences is also expanding its Kota Damansara hospital by tripling its capacity to 600 beds by 2020.
“We intend to have a full-fledged cancer centre focusing on areas such as women oncology. That’s our core strength, women and children.”
“The preventive and wellness aspects are core to our future strategies,” adds Nadiah.
CHALLENGES FACED AS CEO
“Well, I’m still adjusting to the fact that I’m 35-years old,” she says with a hearty laugh when asked about being a young leader and the pressure that comes with it.
"Sometimes, people talk about Gen X and Gen Y as if they are completely different species of human beings," she continues. "However, sitting where I am right now, I do see the communication gap between one generation and another, sometimes.’’
When asked about her leadership style, Nadiah has this to say. "I’m always in a hurry to do things and sometimes that might put a lot of pressure on the organisation.’’
"We want to deliver what we’ve promised. We also always try and see how we can do things differently.’’
“I like to tell people this, 'The higher up you go, you get more bosses'. In my position, I must deal with the board and shareholders. So, having an (effective leadership), again, boils down to communication,” says Nadiah.
Her strategy in keeping a close relationship with her staff is through newsletters, periodic town hall sessions and doctors' meetings.
"We try to communicate and understand. I think when an organisation gets more complex, communication breakdown is a major issue.”
"I believe my style as a leader is more transparent and open," says Nadiah.
KEY ASPECTS TO RUNNING A GREAT HOSPITAL
Since being appointed CEO in 2017, one of Nadiah's first tasks were to bring its service to a higher level.
"In private health care, service is very important because when you have to pay for your own healthcare, you want the freedom of choice.’’
"I always tell my staff, we must emphasise customer experience. Do they feel like they’re being cared for? And are people taking care of them?’’
When asked on her thoughts of the Malaysian healthcare system, of which Nadiah is very passionate about, she feels there are many ways the public and private sectors could work together to allow greater access to quality healthcare.
“The cost is obviously a big issue for many people. Medical inflation is occurring because of the foreign exchange rate. Secondly, people are diagnosed with more complex diseases nowadays.’’
"Therefore, the cost of caring for them becomes expensive.’’
"The Health Ministry is looking closely into private-public partnerships. But we also need other ministries to come together and rethink the healthcare system and encourage more cross-sector collaborations," she says.