Neil Woodhams(School, 1959 - 63) OC of the Month - July 2021
Thursday, 22 July 2021

Our OC of the Month for July 2021 is Neil Woodhams (School, 1959-63) who was recently named in the June 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List as a recipient of an Officer of New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for his services to people with Multiple Sclerosis.

Neil has had a long career working at senior management level in the healthcare sector including roles as Senior Executive of the Midland RHA and Chief Operating Officer of Auckland DHB.

In the late 1990’s Neil’s wife Erin was diagnosed with MS and then a little later one of their sons was also diagnosed with MS. At the time of Erin’s diagnosis there was little information, drugs, or MS services available. The impact that MS has had on Neil’s family led him to becoming a passionate advocate for those living with MS.

The work and time that Neil has dedicated to MSNZ has seen significant changes made to the improvement of the health and quality of life outcomes for those New Zealanders living with MS.

  • When you were at King’s College, what did you want to do for a career after you graduated?
I was at Kings from 1959 to 1963. I then went to Victoria University studying accounting. Initially I worked in the finance industry for the Marac group for 14 years as a manager in the domestic lending side of the business. Much later I spent the latter part of my career in senior roles in the health sector.
  • What is your best memory of your time at King’s College?  
The friendships of the people met many of which still exists today.
  • Which staff member do you remember most favourably from King's College and why?
Lyn Saunders who taught me French for three years and who I still thank every time I go to France and use my very poor French to get around. The other over riding figure was of course Greenbank, but I never understood Taranaki gates and his unique teaching of maths which I have regretted in the years since.
  • What advice would you give to your school age self?
Have a go at everything. You may never get another chance.
  • Tell us about yourself now and what you do for a career?
I am now semi-retired. I am the full-time carer for my wife Erin who has MS and has been in a wheelchair to nearly 20 years. In addition, I am President for Multiple Sclerosis NZ and an active trustee of their Research Trust.
I have been involved for the last 16 years in a Treaty Claim with three groups of Maori primary care providers which alleges the Crown breached the Treaty when it introduced the Primary Care strategy in 2002. We had a very successful hearing in 2018 before the Waitangi Tribunal and I have been chairing a committee of experts who have been finding ways to address the shortcomings of the strategy. I am also a trustee of the Fono Trust, the largest Pacific Island health and social services trust in New Zealand.
  • What does/did your job involve?   
Currently my carer role is my full-time job and one I am unlikely to able to retire from! The others are governance roles where I try and use my many years of experience in running small and large organisations to mentor and encourage people in these organisations to be the best.
  • What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Letting go and finding time for relaxation and family
  • What would you say is your biggest achievement to date?
I would not want to single any one out. I hope that my work with both Multiple Sclerosis and in the wider health arena has made life easier and better for many people.
  • What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
Better health.
  • What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
Michael King’s biography of Princess Te Puia.
My no. 8 iron and a bag of golf balls.
My fishing rod.
  • How would you like to be remembered?
Someone who has made a difference.