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Chief Executive Officer, Pharmasave Drugs (National) Ltd.

By: Erica Scime

In 2007 Sue Paish shocked many when she went from top lawyer at one of the country’s most reputable law firms, to CEO of Vancouver based Pharmasave Drugs retail pharmacy chain.

Paish was born and raised in British Columbia until the age of 10 when her parents sent her to a school in England for three years. Paish then left home again at 16 to study commerce and law at the University of British Columbia, heeding her parents’ advice to always go after what she wanted.

In 1983 Paish was hired at Russell & DuMoulin (now Fasken Martineau), a leading Canadian law firm, where she spent many years working her way up the ranks. In 2000, Paish was appointed Managing Partner of the firm. By the end of her six-year term as Managing Partner, Paish had led the firm through a major merger and global expansion to eight offices on three continents. While doing this, Paish made a strong name for herself as one of Canada’s Top 25 Women Lawyers by Lexpert – but she was ready for her next challenge.

When Paish decided to move on from law, there was no shortage of job offers – including one for CEO of Pharmasave. Paish had no experience in pharmacy or retail, but the challenge of taking a job so outside of her field was appealing. She embraced the challenge and with the support of her Board, took on the lead role during one of the most tumultuous and ‘interesting’ times in retail pharmacy in decades. Paish’s strategic vision and work ethic has earned her the respect of her coworkers and the industry and resulted in notable increases in the profile and success of Pharmasave. Recently Paish was one of the leads in the creation of PharmAlliance, a strategic alliance between Pharmasave, and Halifax based PharmaChoice, creating one of the largest pharmacy retail organizations in the country.

Paish also keeps busy with an intense commitment to the community. She chaired the Vancouver Board of Trade, and founded the Womens’ Leadership Circle. She also currently sits as a director of the Rick Hansen Foundation and chairs the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. No matter how busy she is at Pharmasave, Paish always finds time for the community – a dedication that is a hallmark of her leadership.

Paish has been recognized as one of Vancouver’s Most Influential Women in Business, is the recipient of the UBC Faculty of Law Alumni Award of Distinction, one of Vancouver’s ‘Power 50’ and recipient of a Queen’s Counsel designation.

Her list of roles, titles and awards may be long, but Paish continues to be driven by her desire to push herself, to take chances and to learn new things. It is because of this zest for life that Sue Paish is a role model for women who may be looking to take a risk or make a change in their work, just like she did.