Angela Lim wants to transform New Zealand's health system. In endeavouring to learn everything she can about it, she’s learning what makes her tick too.
Now in her final year of her medical degree at the University of Auckland, 25-year-old Angela also has a Bachelor of Science specialising in Neuroscience. She is purposefully building a governance portfolio in health and is on the National Child Health Information Platform Governance Group. She is a Clinical Governance Board Member for Northland District Health Board and was previously the Deputy Chair of Counties Manukau Health’s Community Panel. She is also co-founder and chief executive of Catalyst Point, a company that is developing a global platform to help hospitals deliver cost-effective, patient-centred care by making it easier to connect the right people with the right information at the right time.
“I think there’s an assumption with healthcare that someone will turn up with a rah-rah campaign to change the system, but I prefer the butterfly effect," she says. Empowering people to make multitudes of tiny changes within a complex system that will add up to make a significant difference.
“I want to figure out how to crack those ‘big hairy problems’. If no one else is going to do it, I’ll give it a go.”
Angela grew up in Johor, Malaysia, emigrating to Auckland with her family when she was 15. She's been working determinedly towards her goals since she was seven.
“I would wake up at 4am, make my own lunch, catch the bus to go to school in Singapore, try really hard at school, come home on the bus about 6pm, do all my homework and then rinse and repeat.
“I was indoctrinated in a good work ethic but it is so competitive, you are boxed in from a very young age and I definitely did not think about leadership. When I came to New Zealand I had the room to discover what I enjoyed and realise that had a multiplier effect.”
Angela volunteered to lead a youth group at the Fo Guang Shan Temple, developing a community profile and eventually winning a place on a community board.
“Volunteering is the sector where you are able to take risks and push yourself beyond what you think you can achieve, there’s always a need for volunteers and always skills and experience you can learn.”
Growing up in a family that talked business, she understood the principles at a very young age.
“My mum’s side came from an impoverished background. She and six siblings grew up living in one room and most of them became self-made millionaires because that was the goal they set for themselves. I realised if they can go from being really poor to really successful I have no excuse not to achieve the same.”
Finding her own path to success wasn’t easy.
“I picked the hardest course university could offer so I could benchmark myself against other university students as a way of working out what my abilities were. But it wasn’t really what I was expecting and I had to find the meaning in it.”
After her second year of study Angela headed to the Ukraine to teach English for three months to learn more about herself, a move that started her thinking about inequality.
“Over there you can have a stretch of road with slums on one side and flashy shopping centres on the other. I realised if you live in a society that’s unequal, looking after people is everyone’s responsibility. Before that I was really driven by how can I make the most money, but I started to realise money is not the most important thing.”
Angela has made a commitment to learning everything she could about the health system, including the needs of a rural community. She even signed up for the volunteer fire brigade during her six weeks in Kaitaia working with former New Zealander of the Year GP Lance O’Sullivan.
“What I learned is that we apply an urban-centric solution to regional New Zealand but it doesn’t actually quite fit. You do need an overview but you also need people who can tap into local knowledge and resources.”
Angela says she consistently receives positive feedback for her passion and that is something anybody can bring to any role.
“I love that Zig Ziglar quote, ‘your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your altitude’. I always give my 100 per cent, no matter what I do.”