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Honouring Wynne Powell: chair of PHSA to retire after 15 years of extraordinary leadership

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After 15-plus years of extraordinary achievement and leadership, Wynne Powell is preparing to retire as director and chair of the boards of PHSA and BC Emergency Health Services. On December 31, Wynne will complete his final term as chair, and be succeeded by current vice-chair Tim Manning, marking the end of an exceptional era for all of us.

As the only board chair PHSA and BCEHS have ever known, Wynne has left an indelible mark. His passion to improve care for patients is remarkable. He is the longest-serving health authority chair in B.C. He has served seven Ministers of Health, chaired three large health organizations, and acted as chair of the committee of chairs of B.C.’s six health authorities – all while refusing any pay.Even more remarkable, Wynne has done all this while serving as a highly-regarded CEO of multiple large companies, and while donating his time to a host of other community and philanthropic initiatives.

So as Wynne prepares to retire, it’s a fitting opportunity to reflect on his many accomplishments.

Answering the call

Wynne is a gifted business leader and innovator. He joined the H. Y. Louie group of companies in 1982, eventually becoming president and CEO of London Drugs and three other related companies. During that time, he helped London Drugs grow from 18 stores in B.C. when he joined, to 78 across western Canada when he retired in 2014, providing jobs for over 7,000 people. (He still serves as president and CEO of London Air Services and London Enterprises.)

So when the provincial government needed a chair for the newly formed PHSA in 2001 – and to chair the committee of brand new health authority chairs – they turned to Wynne.“When I asked him to chair PHSA, Wynne immediately accepted, and refused pay,” recalls former Minister of Health Services Colin Hansen. “In his 15 years in the role, he has initiated a comprehensive array of patient care and quality improvements, creating a nationally-recognized culture of excellence. He is an expert who we regularly turned to for help.

PHSA’s achievements under Wynne

PHSA has grown under Wynne’s leadership to provide 1.7 million patient-visits annually, providing specialized province-wide services for important populations of care.

Under Wynne, our achievements on behalf of patients include:

  • ​​As newly installed chair, Wynne encouraged improvements to patient care and quality that ultimately led to PHSA being recognized by Accreditation Canada with its highest standing for health care accreditation, as well as exemplary standing for our agencies.
  • ​​Wynne initiated a focus on employee development that ultimately resulted in PHSA being named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 2016 for the third year in a row. PHSA has also been recognized as one of B.C.’s Top Employers, Canada’s Greenest Employers and Canada’s Top Employers for Young People. 
  • Wynne encouraged development of PHSA’s research capacity, such that we conducted $160 million of health research in 2015-16, with more than 2,100 investigators, researchers and students involved in lab-based, clinical and community health research. PHSA is also the largest health research entity in Canada outside Ontario, and the fifth largest nationally, according to Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals. 
  • In 2010, when the government identified an opportunity to improve ambulance service-delivery by integrating into the health sector under PHSA, it turned to Wynne. As so often when government requested his assistance, Wynne immediately agreed – he personally oversaw the complex planning and transition over the next two years into the newly formed BC Emergency Health Services, and became its chair, successfully integrating it into the health sector. 
  • In 2014, following a review of Fraser Health Authority directed by the Ministry of Health, Wynne once again answered the call, stepping in as interim chair. He accelerated patient care and safety improvements, contributed countless hours to the recruitment of a new CEO, and provided valuable organizational stability for staff in the interim. 
  • Wynne has provided strong governance-oversight for vital new health facilities, such as the new Teck Acute Care Centre at the BC Children’s and BC Women’s Hospitals, helping to secure important philanthropic support and to ensure the project is on-time and on-budget, providing the best possible care for patients. 
  • Most recently, Wynne has been a passionate champion for the needed for added tools and changes to address the opioid-overdose public health emergency in B.C. He was instrumental in working with government to secure a regulatory change enabling all our paramedics to administer life-saving Naloxone, as well as firefighters. Of significance, this measure was implemented in January, three months before the Provincial Health Office declared a public emergency.
By so generously sharing his business acumen, experience and leadership skills, he has helped to build a sustainable health care system, ensuring that our citizens will continue to have high-quality, specialty health care services across for years to come. 
Other volunteer service and honours
Health care is just one of many areas where Wynne has donated his time:

  • As a resident of South Pender Island, concerned about the lack of emergency services, he helped create a volunteer fire department and served for 18 years as a volunteer firefighter, director and treasurer, helping to protect lives. 
  • As a director of the Vancouver Board of Trade, he helped fund and expand leadership development programs, providing both personal and corporate support from London Drugs for the Leaders of Tomorrow program, and personally mentored dozens of students, giving them access to new life opportunities. 
  • As a graduate of BC Institute of Technology, and director and chair of its board, and lifelong supporter, Wynne has been directly responsible for raising $1.2 million in donations for the Institute, and has inspired an additional $15 million in donations from industry partners. These resources have helped create new facilities, programs, services and opportunities for tens of thousands of students. 
  • Wynne was asked to serve as one of the founding directors for the Chartered Professional Accountants Western School of Business, where his appointment term has just concluded. 
  • For his legacy of public service, Wynne has been recognized by community groups, professional organizations and post-secondary institutions across Canada. His awards include the Order of St. John, an Honorary Doctor of Technology by BCIT, the BCIT Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal.​
  • ​For his legacy of public service, Wynne has been recognized by community groups, professional organizations and post-secondary institutions across Canada. His awards include the Order of St. John, an Honorary Doctor of Technology by BCIT, the BCIT Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal.
When Wynne retired as CEO of London Drugs in 2014, over 700 guests attended a tribute dinner in his honour. At his request, all proceeds were directed to the BCIT Foundation – raising $206,000 for the institute he has done so much to support.

Indeed, as he now retires from PHSA, arguably Wynne’s greatest contribution is the model of public service that he has provided for tens of thousands of young people for decades to come. His legacy will endure in the next generation of volunteers, community-builders and philanthropists who he has inspired to follow his example.

In their own words: tributes for Wynne

“Wynne’s many contributions to the province extend far beyond being a successful businessman. He’s a community builder and leader that has helped strengthen our province, grow the economy, and kept British Columbians working.” - Premier Christy Clark
“Wynne is a standout board chair. He has distinguished himself as the 'go-to leader' for significant transformational initiatives at the request of government. At all times, his actions are motivated by the determination to promote the public interest by achieving quality outcomes and by upholding the principles of taxpayer accountability.” - Terry Lake, Minister of Health
“Wynne doesn’t just volunteer – he plunges into the organizations he supports to transform every aspect of the services they provide, enriching the lives of all British Columbians, and inspiring others to do the same. I personally will always be grateful to Wynne for accepting my request to serve in 2001, and for the legacy he has left our province. I was a more successful Health Minister as a result of his passion and dedication.” - Colin Hansen, Minister of Health Services 2001-04, 2010-11
“As board chair of PHSA, Wynne also chairs the meetings of health authority chairs. In that capacity Wynne brings his leadership skills which include the ability to listen, to bring clarity to sometimes very difficult issues, and to achieve consensus. The success of the governance structure of B.C. health services has much to do with the leadership of Wynne and his service as chair of the chairs from the beginning of the creation of the health authorities.” - Dr. Charles Jago, chair, Northern Health Authority; president, University of Northern BC, 1995-2006
“The legacy Wynne has built for British Columbians is as wide as it is diverse. From board director to volunteer firefighter, and industry leader to quiet philanthropist, Wynne’s intrinsic understanding of what it means to be an active participant in the citizenship of our province and country is exemplary. This province has been enriched and will continue to be so into the future, due to the unflagging passion Wynne Powell has as a proud citizen of British Columbia.” - Brandt C. Louie, president and CEO, H.Y. Louie; chair, London Drugs
“What makes Mr. Powell exceptional isn’t his ability to successfully run four thriving companies (although, let’s face it, that’s pretty impressive). What’s remarkable about Wynne is his community leadership and dedication to building a stronger business community here in B.C. – particularly through his support of networking and career-building opportunities for students. Mr. Powell understands the importance of grooming tomorrow’s leaders.” - Iain Black, president and CEO, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade
“Wynne is one of BC’s great business leaders and one of BCIT’s greatest champions. As BCIT’s president, I am indebted to Wynne. Without his vision, commitment, selflessness and leadership, our institute would not be what it is today.” - Kathy Kinloch, president, BC Institute of Technology
Wynne Powell; accomplishments; Board
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