Karen Lynch

Jeffery Salter
  • Title
  • Affiliation
    CVS Health
  • Age
  • 2020 Rank

On Feb. 1, Karen Lynch became the chief at CVS Health, the fourth-biggest company in the country by revenue—and the largest in health care, America’s biggest and in many ways most backward industry. Health care is also the industry that Lynch knows best: She built her career in health insurance, and she spent most of the prior three years running Aetna, the giant carrier that CVS Health acquired for $69 billion in 2018.

Lynch started fast with a daring gambit: putting CVS at the heart of the pandemic response, as a hub for COVID tests and vaccines. The company has administered more than 34 million vaccine doses since May 2020, and tens of millions of people who visited their nearby CVS saw for the first time that they could also get a cholesterol screening or physical inside those same four walls.

That strategy has helped draw in new customers, while also impressing Wall Street. In the opening two quarters of 2021, CVS generated revenues of $142 billion, up 13% over the same period in 2019 (pre-pandemic), and over the past year CVS’s stock is up 50%, outpacing the S&P 500 at 32%.

Lynch’s next big move is one she disclosed exclusively to Fortune in a recent interview. It’s a plan to transform CVS’s vast network of neighborhood pharmacies into the new front door for health care access. At the heart of the strategy: remaking hundreds of stores into outlets 100% devoted to primary care, capable of collectively serving tens of thousands of patients a day—thus breaking through one of the most stubborn bottlenecks in medicine.

“We’ll be far more than the corner drugstore,” says Lynch. “We’re pivoting to become more central to America’s health care.” To read more about the strategy, see our feature story, “CVS Health is about to turn hundreds of its drugstores into health care super-clinics.”

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