Sophie Oliff: Listening to communities
20Twenties Young Alumni Award winner in recognition of leadership and volunteer work in the health sector. BPharm 2016.
What was your reaction to receiving the award?
I was nominated by Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga and frankly to be recognised by such an influential health leader was a prize in itself! I'm absolutely thrilled to be a recipient of the award and it strengthens my resolve that you don't need to wait until you're a certain age before you can make a difference.
What have you done since graduation and what are you doing now?
A great mix of clinical and non-clinical roles, working as a hospital pharmacist; in service improvement; management consulting across district health boards; and more recently the Ministry of Health in the system flow team. I've had employers and mentors that have helped turbo-charge my experience since I graduated in 2016.
Alongside this, I have been involved in the start-up of various not-for-profits and social enterprises – often with fellow Otago alums! I have gained governance experience as a Chair of Ignite Consultants Trust and as a member of the Health Workforce Advisory Board. I have learnt skills in developing strategy, starting up new initiatives and frameworks such as design thinking that have cross-pollinated the skills I bring to my work in health.
What motivates you to work and volunteer in the areas you are involved with?
Health systems are complex beasts! There is a wealth of opportunity to improve the system, but more broadly there is opportunity for health to be embedded into our communities beyond our typical biomedical model of health. Healthcare could learn a lot from our local communities and whānau and finally we're learning to listen. Health as a system could also gain a lot from utilising the bright young minds who are earlier in their career and creating opportunities to build leadership skills alongside their clinical skills.
What were the highlights of your time at Otago, and has it influenced you in your career?
I have fantastic memories of my time of Otago. Otago afforded me opportunities such as the Tairawhiti Inter-professional Education Programme which really enhanced my understanding of Rural and Māori health. And through organisations like Ignite Consultants I had the ability to work with the wider Dunedin community and really feel part of Otago, like a second home.
Otago helped me understand my responsibility and ability to improve communities as an ongoing pursuit rather than making an impact “when I'm old enough”.