AAPI Month Boardroom Insights — Interview with Dr. Leana Wen

Introducing AAPI leader, Dr. Leana Wen, and how she landed her first corporate board role

AAPI Month Boardroom Insights — Interview with Dr. Leana Wen

For Asian American and Pacific Islanders Month, we’re sharing highlights from interviews with accomplished AAPI leaders making an impact in the boardroom and the world.  

Here, we're honored to introduce Dr. Leana Wen and share how she leveraged her practicing physician and non-profit board expertise to land her first corporate board role.   

 

Dr. Leana Wen is a practicing physician and healthcare executive who has received recognition as one of Modern Healthcare's Top 50 Physician-Executives, World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, Governing’s Public Official of the Year, and TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. Dr. Wen has extensive experience in public policy and regulatory affairs, including having served as the health commissioner for the city of Baltimore.

Dr. Wen serves as an independent board member of Glaukos Corporation (NYSE: GKOS), where she is on the audit committee. She also serves as chair of the advisory board of the Behavioral Health Group, and is a member of the board of directors of the Bipartisan Policy Center and Baltimore Community Foundation. Her previous board experience includes being board chair of Behavioral Health System Baltimore for four years and serving on boards and advisory of boards of more than ten nonprofit and venture-backed health innovation companies. Past committee service includes being chair of the governance committee; board secretary and treasurer; and member of audit and finance, oversight, advocacy, education, and investment committees. 

  1. Please share your perspective on the process of landing your first corporate board.

A year ago, in March 2021, I joined my first public board. It came through a search firm, which was recommended to me by a colleague. Previously, I had served on more than a dozen nonprofit boards, including as board chair and committee chair of several large nonprofits. I also led a large government agency of over 1,000 employees. I had indicated my interest about joining corporate boards to a wide network of friends and colleagues. 

The company whose board I joined (Glaukos) is in healthcare, specifically an opthalmic medical technology and pharmaceutical company.The value that I bring is as a practicing physician with administrative background, who has previously led large complex organizations. I was drawn to Glaukos for many reasons, including the strength of their management team, the commitment of the board, and the relentless drive to innovation that’s focused on unmet health needs.

  1. How do you clarify your potential interest in public vs private board opportunities?

I also serve on the advisory board for several private companies (including chair of the advisory board for Behavioral Health Group, another healthcare company, and as an advisor to B Generous, a fintech company). 

  1. What was your biggest personal learning from your first board director appointment? Was there anything that surprised you about governance that you hadn’t originally expected or anticipated?

There are many lessons from nonprofit and government leadership that directly translate to the corporate boards. Of course, there are many differences too, but don’t undervalue your experiences and value proposition, and be proactive about connecting the dots for others.

  1. What is the onboarding experience like when joining a board?

Knowing that it was my first public board experience, Glaukos and the search firm arranged for me to take one-on-one lessons with a board coach. It was immensely helpful to work with someone who could meet me where I was with my knowledge base and recommend specific learnings. I also joined NACD and used their resources. In addition, I got to know existing members of the Glaukos board and had 1:1 meetings with them.

  1. Did any of your boards already include diverse directors prior to your appointment?  How, if at all, did the board's existing demographic status affect your perception of the board opportunity? How might that perception have changed over time?

Diversity, to me, represents not only demographic diversity but also diversity of experiences. It’s key to find out what is the board composition that the company is seeking and why, and what is the role that you will play as a board member. 

  1. At a high level, would you be open to sharing any details around compensation as a board director? What should aspiring board members expect?

For corporate boards, this is public information. As with any undertaking, make sure that the expectation of how much time the board role will take matches the compensation sought.

  1. Is there anything else that you might care to add?

I’ve interacted with many incredible people through the board search process. Some are old friends and colleagues whom I’ve reconnected with. Others are new connections. I am excited to see more representation on boards, including from AAPIs, in the future.

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Looking for your next board role, or want more information on the board search process? Join theBoardlist today to get your board search process started.

And if you want to connect with Dr. Leana Wen and learn how she leveraged her practicing physician and non-profit board expertise to land her first corporate board role click here for her theBoardlist profile.

Thank you to Ascend Pinnacle for your partnership on this AAPI series - if you want to learn more about Ascend Pinnacle's platform to support and increase the number of Asian-Americans on U.S. Corporate Boards - you can find them here.