Zach Warder-Gabaldon wanted a different pace of life from Silicon Valley, where so many
people only seem interested in doing more, accomplishing more. “I wasn’t drawn to those goals. I want a place where I can continue to grow, to use my experience, and enjoy simple pleasures. New Zealand meets those criteria.”
Dea Dauphinee had wanted to live here since a three-month solo backpacking trip in 2009.
Rehabilitating a sports injury years later led her to a career change as a physiotherapist, which ultimately enabled the couple to relocate to New Zealand this year.
They arrived in Christchurch about four months ago, having spent the previous twelve criss-crossing America in a camper van.
Zach describes himself as a “lifelong innovator looking for ways to create positive impacts for human beings and the planet they live on.” He told me “I’m a builder. I have helped build devices, processes, teams, and companies. I enjoy difficult problems that when solved have a material positive impact, so I often think ‘Where are the gaps?’ and ‘How can I help fill them?’”
Zach has focused extensively on the healthcare sector. He began in Silicon Valley as a medical device designer and then product manager using his mechanical engineering degrees from Stanford University. He then transitioned to digital health software as a salesperson and then executive in San Francisco. “I made the switch for three reasons: I wanted to (a) prevent rather than treat; (b) iterate more quickly; and (c) be closer to the customer, user, or patient.”
This desire to improve healthcare has led to companies which prevent chronic disease escalation through patient engagement software, simplify cardiac and cardiology procedures with anastomotic and arterial closure devices, and treat obesity by way of novel surgical therapies.
Dea was once a world-class athlete and has always been interested in health and wellbeing. She began her career in the Stanford University School of Medicine at the Prevention Research Center, studying the effects of tobacco advertising on teen health.
In 2009, Dea spent three months travelling around New Zealand. “I fell in love with the country and knew I needed to live here at some point in my life.”
Her interest in physiotherapy was awakened by two shoulder injuries. “Apparently, I asked a lot of questions during rehab. I asked so many that at one point they asked me ‘Have you thought of doing physiotherapy?’” Stanford continued to offer Dea new opportunities to advance her career in research, but she felt something was missing. “It got to the point where our surveys had little to no human interaction; I wanted to connect with people.”
When she decided to switch careers, Dea thought about gaining her qualification from the School of Physiotherapy at Otago but instead chose to qualify at the University of California, San Francisco, and gain work experience in the U.S.
While Zach’s working world is strongly linked to digitisation, it’s a new area for Dea as a physiotherapist, but she sees its benefits clearly. “Digital technology offers great options to improve care, outcomes, adherence, and accountability. And it’s particularly useful for women’s health, which often needs alternative solutions such as telehealth.”
She continues, “Say you have a mother with a toddler and a newborn and poor pelvic floor function trying to get through the day with back pain and incontinence. How is she going to get to physio appointments? Telehealth enables the mother to do her rehab sets at home with the physio watching, so there’s an immediate benefit for both mum and physio.”
In another situation, Dea says, “It’s not just women’s health either. An older man falls and breaks the top of his femur. He can’t drive while recovering. His wife is working. Telehealth shows he has three huge dogs that often act crazy, and that’s why he fell. You have that aha! moment because you’ve seen the home situation. Would that have come out in the clinic? Probably not. Telehealth gives you extra information that directly benefits patient recovery and outcomes.”
Both of these people see wonderful opportunities to improve healthcare using digitisation. Dea thinks “the physio profession is at a crossroads. There are a variety of avenues to push into more tech-supported care.” And Zach knows where his values lie and how he wants to spend his time, “My purpose is to ensure that when I leave this planet my output will exceed my input.”