HTA young guns make their mark

By Megan Brodie 3 years ago | In Companies, People
  • 3 years ago
HTA consultants Cam Olaya, Aiya Taylor and Isabelle Ryder

3 May 2021

A trio of new Gen Y recruits at Sydney-based consultancy Health Technology Analysts couldn’t be more diverse in their backgrounds, but these three ‘young guns’ have one thing in common – they love analysing stuff.

So it is perhaps not surprising that the kitchen wall of the company’s new Surry Hills digs is already covered in ‘ratings’ of areas as diverse as the local coffee, flip yoghurt flavours, Netflix shows, books and movies to inform their own personal decision making.

All aged in their twenties, Isabelle Ryder, Aiya Taylor and Cam Olaya joined HTA over the past 18 months and, while laughingly admitting to being intimidated on their first day at the high-powered consultancy, it’s clear these three bright young people bring their fair share of brainpower to the mix, potentially revealing the ‘how’ behind the agency’s ability to crack the gnarly problems others put in the too hard basket.

Sitting down with MedNews in Surry Hills, the trio described the paths which brought them to HTA.

Aiya Taylor completed her academic qualifications in nursing and health science in her home town of Auckland before a research project on patient safety inspired her to pursue a Masters of Public Health in Australia.

Looking for a career where she could make a difference for patients, Taylor took up an internship at HTA in late 2019 and has fast gone from strength to strength, being appointed a senior consultant in March this year.

Cam Olaya joined HTA as a consultant in September, coming from what he describes as “a stock standard route through academia”, having done his PhD in the genetics of schizophrenia. Yet what Olaya says are the “many hurdles” of life in academia, including not seeing lab work translated into treatments, meant he also wanted a more meaningful career.

“In academia, we were discovering very nuanced pathways in the brain but there was no link between that and a drug or molecule that could be targeted for making a therapy,” he said. “That was a bit frustrating and I wanted a career path where I could make a difference in real-world healthcare.

“A lot of the scientific elements and clinical aspects of this job are very much translated from what I did in academia, and it’s a little bit of a bonus to understand the molecular biology that goes behind the treatments and diseases. Being so much closer to actually making an impact – that’s the best part of the job. Along with seeing the value of what we do.

“We look at what happens when patients get drugs – not just to them but beyond them. To look deeper into the value of treatments is something you don’t get even close to covering in academia. If you do a good job here, you are potentially getting new treatments to patients faster.”

Ryder gained her undergraduate qualifications in biomedical engineering and immunology, working at The George Institute before securing an internship at HTA in October last year and is now working as a consultant while completing a Masters of Public Health. Like Taylor and Olaya, Ryder also sought a career with a purpose where she could make a tangible difference for patients.

“In biomedical engineering, you are working on things that will probably be available to patients in 30 years if you’re lucky,” she says. “At The George, I was working on a screening program for cardiovascular disease in Indonesia, where you saw a translation of the research. It was a whole different world because you could directly interact with the people you were impacting. After that, I knew I didn’t want to be in a lab.”

Ryder describes HTA as “the bridge between research, great innovative technologies and treating the patient”.

“It’s like decades of research happens and then we are the final hurdle before it’s actually available to patients, which is so cool,” she says. “We get exposed to so many different technologies and work for so many different clients. You get to be at the forefront of medical innovation, which is really exciting.”

Out-of-the-box thinking

“Because we get the difficult problems, we are often at the forefront of strategy and have to think outside the box to make it work, not just for the client but also for the community,” says Taylor.

“When you’re exposed to really complex problems requiring such out-of-the-box thinking, you just absorb that core strategic view. You don’t ever get bored because when you bring all these different minds together, you can do something pretty amazing.”

The trio has developed a strong rapport, often enthusiastically agreeing with each other or laughing in sync. Ryder says the complexity of the health system and what they are dealing with means friends outside the system often don’t understand what she does.

“This whole world is not clear to the average Joe, ” she says. “If I talk about the MSAC and the PBAC, most of my friends don’t even know what that is. It feels like a world only we know about but it’s still so huge. That’s just crazy.”

As for the future plans, these three young guns are so energised by their new world of consulting, it’s clear Australia’s medicines and technology industries will have the benefit of their unique and diverse talents for many years to come.

“HTA is an extremely young company – you can carve out your own path here in whatever interest you may have. You don’t have to stick to a particular path here. There’s a lot of scope to grow,” says Olaya.

“You’re faced with all these different challenges,” adds Ryder. “You might not have the clinical background in a disease area but if you have a certain way of thinking, you can form a solution and that’s pretty cool.”

For Taylor, she is becoming more focused, saying while she is “still exploring”, her future path is taking shape.

“I love the patient focus groups and working alongside patients. I want to carve out a path in government work.”

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