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Karen Lynch's path to the C-Suite at CVS Health

March 11, 2021 00:00 AM UTC
- Updated May 21, 2021 17:43 PM UTC

How health crises in her family prepared her to lead the healthcare giant.

if that were your family. If that was your spouse, if that was your friend, how would you want to be treated? And how do we help people through that health journey? And that's what kind of fuels my passion around health care and making a real difference. I lost my mom when I was 12 due to suicide, and, um, I Then when I was in my early twenties, I lost my aunt. She had breast cancer and lung cancer, and I sat on my aunt hospital bed, not knowing what kinds of questions to ask, not knowing where to get help. As you think about health care, it's not easy. My sister actually diagnosed with breast cancer when I asked her, What are the doctors saying? She probably knew about maybe 15% of what the doctor actually said. Fortunately for me, I can say, Well, you know, let's let's think about it in pieces. But okay, let's talk about you know what the doctor said. Let's figure out the questions. We want to go back and ask the doctor. So let's make sure that we think about what alternative treatment plans there are, and because I have this, you know, understanding of the health care system. I'm I'm able to help her answer those questions. Not everybody has has a sister that's in health care, and more and more people should know how to navigate the healthcare system. My goal is to make those connections simpler, easier and more affordable. So it's personal for me. Quite frankly, I went to, um, into health care while my aunt was sick. I spent a long part of my career 18 years of my career at one of our competitors increasing, um, successful, you know, increasing, um, responsibility rolls. They plucked me out of my finance job and put me in a human resource job. And the human resource job was working for the C F O S H R person. I learned how much time the CFO of the whole company was spending on people. People are the most important thing that you really need to understand and how to motivate them, how to inspire them, how to pay them how to train them. That was a step level job for me, and I did you know, I didn't do it for very long, but it taught me a lot about, uh, the human side of the business. When I came to Aetna, I came in and did the Coventry acquisition. It was one of their largest acquisitions at the time. They had a failed transition When they brought us healthcare. People in the company still remembered that I remember my first thing was going to all those individuals asking them Why did it fail? And you feel like it's gonna be difficult. Someone early in my career said, You have two years and and one mouth make sure you use them in proportion. Um, and and throughout my career, I really learned to listen. The chairman of the board called me and he said, We've gone through a process that, you know, you've been through the process, and I'm really pleased to let you know that we have chosen and selected you to be our new CEO. And I was elated. My husband was in the room with me when he called me. This is what I had hoped for. This is what I've worked my entire career for. And, um, it wasn't easy. There are a lot of obstacles along the way and really excited about the opportunity. There is no Harvard Business Review article. There's no owner's manual for how you're going to handle this global pandemic. We've been working with vaccines, Uh, for a number of months now. We were working closely with operations, warp speed and the States for a number of months. We are ready for the vaccine distribution. We've been mobilizing people. We've been mobilizing places, and we're spending a lot of time. We've hired 15,000 technicians. We have over 90,000 immunize ear's. Nationally, we have multiple access points for consumers to engage. We have the opportunity to utilize all 10,000 of our pharmacies. 40,000 long term care facilities have selected, uh, CBS. We are heading every milestone that we said we were going to hit. And I give a lot of gratitude to the scientists at Pfizer and Moderna and J and J for what they've been able to accomplish If there's one thing the pandemic showed us with the vulnerabilities in America and the vulnerabilities of the health care system, CBS has an opportunity now to be on the path to help fix some of those issues in the health care system. And we're like sprinter sitting on the starting line and, you know, we're ready to go. And that's how I feel like Okay, we're ready to go, um, put us in the game.