One of the youngest CEOs in Malaysia, 34-year-old Nadiah Wan is no stranger to adversity – particularly when it comes to her age and gender in her male dominated C-suite cohort. While completing her studies in Biochemical Sciences at Harvard University, Nadiah found the time to work at Boston Children’s Hospital and volunteer as a teacher in a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. She then spent two years at Boston Consulting Group specialising in life sciences before deciding consulting wasn’t for her.
“With the intention of pursuing a career in public health, I earned the Maxis Scholarship for Excellence to study for a Master of Public Health Nutrition at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines in 2009. But somehow, I ended up at the property company Sunway City in Malaysia, where I was responsible for strategy development and the management of its merger with Sunway Holdings,” she recalls. “However, this opened the door to its healthcare division, and I’ve been involved with hospitals ever since.”
Over the next five years, Nadiah rose through the ranks in business development and corporate communications before assuming the position of COO of Sunway Medical Centre, overseeing a suite of clinical services and operations. Leveraging these strengths, last year she took over as CEO and Group Chief Corporate Officer of Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara – previously Tropicana Medical Centre – a 205-bed hospital with more than 100 medical and surgical consultants and hundreds of patients who rely on its holistic approach to medicine.
Transition, transformation and transparency
“We have just undergone an exciting transformation, following a major corporate exercise to consolidate the healthcare assets of our major shareholder, TMC Life Sciences,” Nadiah explains. “We’re now part of its parent company, Thomson Medical Group Ltd.” Established in 1979, Thomson Medical Group is Singapore’s largest private provider of healthcare services for women and children, operating Thomson Medical Centre and a network of specialist medical clinics and facilities throughout the country.
In August last year, the hospital allocated RM300 million for a two-acre extension block to be completed by the end of 2020. “We’re transitioning from a 205-bed community hospital into a large 600-bed hospital, so the changes we’re making now are centred around institutionalising our operations and governance, and increasing automation, to position ourselves to grow into the largest private healthcare platform in Asia,” says Nadiah.
The extended facility will include 10 comprehensive operating theatres, 10 centres of excellence, more than 100 specialist clinics, food and beverage outlets, and more than 1,000 new parking bays. The group is also venturing into a RM1.2 billion integrated medical hub, Thomson Iskandar in Johor Bahru. Occupying more than four acres of land, the facility is expected to attract medical tourism from Singapore and across the region, with construction to commence at the end of 2018.
At the core of TMC Life Sciences’ business is its chain of fertility centres, which continue to grow in line with Malaysia’s ambition to become a fertility hub in Asia. “We’re also looking to develop a network of ambulatory care centres and retail pharmacies, and to increase our Traditional Chinese Medicine offering,” says Nadiah. “Essentially, we’re building a comprehensive, fully integrated platform so that when a customer comes to Thomson – whether that’s in Singapore, Malaysia or anywhere across Asia – they’re able to access a variety of services in one place.”
Having grown up as part of the social media generation, Nadiah realises the importance of openness and transparency. “I’ve noticed this is the difference between someone my age, versus a leader from an older generation. A good leader is open in acknowledging issues, and confident enough to confront them rather than hide them away,” she explains. “We’re building a culture of accountability and we invest in both in-house and external training and certification programs, and we encourage open communication through our Thomson Shine employee engagement program.”
“A good leader is open in acknowledging issues, and confident enough to confront them rather than hide them away.”
The 6 values
Nadiah lives her life by six values: patience, discipline, competence, trustworthiness, selflessness and kindness. “Unlike industries such as banking and finance, the healthcare sector is very open to women – until you reach the C-suite. I’ve never come across intentional sexism or discrimination because most of the time they don’t realise they’re doing it. For example, if I’m talking to a contractor about machinery or construction and he assumes that because I’m a woman I’m not be the right person to talk to, I’ll be open and tell him otherwise. But I won’t beat them over the head with it,” she laughs.
“What I love about health care is that every day is different and we have a real impact on people’s lives. Yesterday, I spent the morning looking at sanitary ware for the new hospital, but by the afternoon I was meeting with doctors to discuss the technology of the future. This diversity keeps me going.”