Karen Lynch is one of the most powerful people in health today. She has carved out a successful career, holding top roles at various health providers, and is currently chief executive of pharmacy giant CVS Health.
Her position at CVS also makes her the highest-ranking female executive in the Fortune 500.
Karen Rohan Lynch was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the United States, on December 30, 1963. After her parents split up and her mother died suddenly, she was able to get through a hard childhood.Then, their aunt raised her and her young siblings.
Lynch took her early struggles and turned them into inspiration while undertaking her studies. She graduated from Ware Junior Senior High School in 1980 and later obtained an accounting degree from the Boston College Carroll School of Management.
She then got her Certificate of Public Accountancy (CPA) from the same university and her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Questrom School of Business at Boston University.
Lynch’s first job was in the insurance department of the multinational professional services company Ernst & Young. This was before she got her MBA. She would then be involved in insurance for over a decade before being appointed as the president of Cigna in 2004.
A year after her appointment, Lynch also took leadership of the merged Cigna Group Insurance and Cigna Dental divisions, which she held for around five years. Founded in 1982 through a merger between Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CG) and INA Corporation, Cigna has grown to become one of the biggest health care providers in the United States.
Cigna is in the top 20 of the Fortune 500, and its annual revenue has been growing over the past 10 years ($160 billion in 2020).
Magellan Health Services President
Lynch left Cigna to become the president of another healthcare company, Magellan Health Services. Magellan was founded in 1969 and began as the psychiatric hospital chain Charter Medical.
After getting into a lot of debt and going bankrupt in the early 1990s, Charter Medical was able to get back on its feet and was renamed Magellan Health Services, a medical holding company. Centene Corporation, a healthcare insurer based in Missouri, recently paid $2.2 billion for the company.
Aetna President and CVS Health CEO:
After three years with Magellan, Lynch moved on to become the executive vice president and head of specialty products at Aetna. Two years later, she would be made president of the company, making her the first woman to ever hold that position at Aetna.
In 2018, CVS Health paid a huge $69 billion to buy the health insurance company from Connecticut. With this purchase, the medical data and analytics from Aetna will be combined with the pharmacy data from CVS Health.This will make care more connected and lower costs. Aetna currently has a network of 22.1 million medical members, 1.2 million healthcare professionals, and 690,000 primary care doctors and specialists around the world.
The company also has 12 million people who use its dental services and 13 million people who use its pharmacy benefit management services.
Lynch had already made significant progress as the company’s president even before CVS Health acquired Aetna. She was mostly in charge of coming up with plans for giving Aetna’s more than 39 million members high-quality, customer-focused health care. Under her watch, more people didn’t just sign up with Aetna, but more hospitals and healthcare professionals also chose the company over the dozen others providing similar services in the United States.
Lynch’s accomplishments at Aetna didn’t go unnoticed. Over the last five years, she had become a regular feature on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in Business list. She also became the highest-ranking female CEO in the Fortune 500 after she was appointed as CVS Health’s newest chief executive officer in February 2021.
Lynch replaces former CEO Larry Merlo, who led the company for 31 years. With the CEO transition going smoothly, Lynch intends to address the immediate COVID-19 situation in the country as well as create more connected experiences with CVS pharmacies, MinuteClinics, and HealthHub locations. She currently owns 80,000 units of CVS stock and has a net worth of $20 million.
CVS Health was started in 1963, and it runs the largest retail pharmacy chain in the United States. The company also runs MinuteClinic and HealthHub, two facilities that provide retail clinic services. There are currently over 9,900 CVS pharmacies and more than 1,000 MinuteClinic and HealthHub locations in 49 states across the country, as well as in Puerto Rico.
Aside from its pharmacy, retail clinic, and insurance services (Aetna), the company also runs CVS Caremark, a pharmacy benefit management business that gives its members access to CVS pharmacy services 24 hours a day and emergency pharmacist consultations. More than 75 million members are currently enrolled with CVS Caremark.
CVS Health finished 2020 with $268.7 billion in revenues, nearly $12 billion more than the previous year. As the U.S. buckled under the effects of COVID-19, the company was chosen as a partner in the Federal Pharmacy Program’s COVID vaccination program. CVS has so far administered three million vaccines in 40,000 long-term care facilities.
Lynch plans to keep up the company’s ongoing efforts to get people vaccinated through its many pharmacies for the foreseeable future.
Lynch is married to Quell Foundation President and CEO Kevin Lynch. As for her advocacy, she is a strong supporter of women’s empowerment and believes that there should be more women in corporate leadership roles.
As for women leaders, not many can match Karen Lynch’s accomplishments. But she didn’t achieve them overnight, overcoming childhood struggles as well as spending years developing the necessary skills needed for her various roles.
At the end of the day, she is a story of inspiration and determination, and she is a leader that everyone (not just women) should look up to.