The President’s Award – Nicola Oliver

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The President’s Award was presented to Nicola Oliver on 24 June 2021 in recognition of her extraordinary commitment, medical expertise, sense of care and professionalism in her dedicated collaboration with the IFoA over the past five years.

Nicola is co-Chair of the Covid 19 Actuaries Response Group, Chair of the IFoA Diabetes Working Party, a member of IFoA Covid-19 Action Taskforce and of the IFoA’s Health Board.

Can you describe your CV in less than 100 word – try to cover aspects which are most interesting.

Qualifying as a nurse in 1992 opened many doors for me as I progressed into senior roles in neonatal intensive care and paediatrics in the UK and in Australia. I led intensive care teams, and was a senior clinical nurse from early on in my nursing career. After qualifying in public health in 2003, and following a few years in public health, I set up my company, Medical Intelligence in 2007. Now I help actuaries better understand key drivers of mortality and longevity risk from a medical and demographic perspective.

Could you tell us why you decided to choose healthcare and nursing as a career? How did you start?

I was working in a bank in London, and my stepfather was admitted to hospital following a brain haemorrhage which he thankfully survived without any long term problems. He spent a week or two in intensive care, a specialist unit for head injuries. I was fascinated that nursing could be so dynamic and technologically driven. I entered nursing school 6 months later having already left my job in a bank to work in a care home to gain some very valuable experience.

Can you tell us a story from your childhood which inspires you to be what you are today?

I grew up in relative poverty, so there is no single story I can tell, rather a sense of not wanting to still be there as an adult.

What is the proudest piece of work you have done and why?

Reorganising an intensive care unit so that we could respond faster and more efficiently to a medical crisis. This meant that in the event of a baby collapsing, we were able to have the precisely correct equipment and resources at the bedside and saved precious seconds thus ensuring that the baby was not in any way compromised.

What is the most consequential book or lecture you have read or attended?

The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of our Ordinary Lives by Helen Pearson. It is a book about British birth cohort studies: a unique set of longitudinal studies that track generations of babies from birth to death. This particularly resonates with me as it shines a light on social inequality, and how difficult it is to break free from the social class into which you were born.

You must be one of the most proactive and active affiliate of the IFoA? What is the story here?

I knew it was important to understand the profession I work with, so I joined as an affiliate to expand my knowledge of the actuarial world through attending conferences initially. My first volunteer post was in the antimicrobial working party with Matthew Edwards. I could see how my skills could complement working parties and now I get called upon for my input across a range of areas.

Why do you think actuaries have to work with other professions and vice versa?

It’s important to recognise that the challenges that actuaries deal with, the pandemic as a perfect example, require a holistic approach and a multi-disciplinary team effort.

Can you tell us the biggest regret or mistake you have made, and what you learnt from it?

I try not to have regrets, just learning experiences!

If there is one thing you like to see changed in the IFoA and the profession, what will that be?

Greater access to the profession from disadvantaged groups.

What motivates you today? Or what would you like to do next in your life? Or what would you like to achieve in your life?

I’m motivated by watching my family achieve their goals. I would like to achieve the satisfaction of seeing my children truly happy in whatever they choose to do.

Can you tell us something which is not widely known about you?

I left school at age 15.