Alumna awarded for work with global health care start-up
(April 10, 2017)
No two days are alike for Aliya Ramji, Law’07, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Queen’s Law alumna is General Counsel and Director of Legal and Business Strategy for Figure 1, an international start-up and professional network for health care professionals to connect with one another on interesting or challenging cases. The company’s CEO contacted her after finding her resume on a start-up website, and she joined Figure 1 as “Employee #16” and its first lawyer.
Just two years later, in 2016, Ramji was named a Top 10 30-Something by the Association of Corporate Counsel after a Queen’s Law classmate nominated her. While Ramji’s initial reaction to the honour was shock, the distinction is a reflection of her drive and hard work at Figure 1. “It was really nice to get an award for something that’s interesting and fun for me,” she says. “It’s opened a plethora of opportunities.”
While Ramji had previously worked on Bay Street and as in-house counsel, Figure 1 was her first experience with such a small organization. “It was interesting to join as the first lawyer because I didn’t have anyone to ask questions to,” she says. “It meant I had to build a network outside of work, and I spent a lot of time talking with other in-house lawyers so I could learn from them and talk about the challenges I faced.”
Today, Figure 1 has grown to more than 45 employees living in four different countries, but Ramji remains the only member of the legal team, making her days diverse and often unpredictable.
“It can be employment law in the morning and government relations in the afternoon; some mornings I’m looking at contracts and some I’m looking at business strategy,” she says. “I’ve been working here for almost three years now, and every day is different. It’s not just the law that’s interesting – it’s the medical stories as well.”
Indeed, Ramji’s passion for Figure 1’s work and mission also contributes to her drive. The app allows health care professionals to share pictures of conditions that interest or stump them, and anything else they think is worth sharing with other practitioners to learn from or talk about.
“Health care professionals at 4:00 am don’t have anyone to talk to. They might take a picture and send it to their immediate network, but that can be very limiting,” she says. “One of our co-founders wanted to democratize medical knowledge, and I think that’s a fascinating concept.”
One of Ramji’s first tasks was to develop a consent form built into the app to help doctors get consent from their patients around the world. While English might be the language of medicine, patients need to be able to consent in their native language.
“We have 67 versions of the consent form in 42 different languages,” she says. “It’s a legal document so we needed legal translation in all these different jurisdictions, but now a patient in mainland China can consent in Mandarin whereas a patient in Brazil can consent in Brazilian Portuguese.”
Building the consent form required Ramji to reach out to legal professionals around the world, and she credits her international experience – including the Queen’s Law Castle Program, an exchange to Hong Kong during her JD, and an LLM at New York University – with giving her the contacts and confidence to work internationally. It’s also given her the experience to teach Business Law and Legal Aspects of International Business at Ryerson University.
“Teaching legal issues to undergraduates opens new perspectives to me,” she says. “Every time I teach, I learn something I wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.”
For someone who pushes herself to try new things and learn every day at her work, it’s the perfect way for Aliya Ramji to give back.
By Emily Lieffers