Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Less than 18 months after being named CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Rosalind (Roz) Brewer has already been shaking up the retail pharmacy’s traditional position in the market.
In October 2021, Brewer announced a new business segment called Walgreens Health, which aims to create an interconnected healthcare delivery model for patients and includes the growth of “consumer-centric healthcare solutions.” As part of Brewer’s bold vision, Walgreens pharmacies, which are owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), are striving to bring clinical trials to the masses through the nearly 9,000 retail stores in the U.S.
Additionally, Walgreens plans to open hundreds of doctor offices, offer in-store consultations and make its front-of-store merchandise healthier.
WBA’s $6.5 billion in strategic investments in VillageMD, CareCentrix and Shields Health are key to achieving the company’s lofty goals, with the partnership with VillageMD arguably the linchpin to Walgreens’ success in the venture. As of April 2022, the two companies had opened “100 clinics across 13 markets,” with plans to have 200 clinics operational by the end of 2022.
Brewer noted earlier this year during an interview with CNBC that the drugstore chain will zero in on healthcare and position that as the company’s ‘new growth engine.’” She added, “It will be about the lives that we manage, and the lives that we touch and the lives that we can wrap physician and clinicians around in our buildings, both physically and digitally.”
Brewer’s interest in health goes back to her days at Spelman College, where she briefly considered going to medical school, but pivoted to chemistry.
Known as an innovator and transformer, Brewer is bringing a new level of consumer and team member engagement to her role at Walgreens — and no doubt she’s dipping into lessons learned as Starbucks’ chief operating officer and group president, and as president and CEO of Sam’s Club, a division of Walmart. Brewer’s consumer roots include 22 years at Kimberly-Clark, where she steadily moved up the ranks, ultimately serving as the president for manufacturing and operations and global president.
Today, Brewer is considered one of the most influential women in any industry. Fortune currently has her sitting in the No. 6 spot on its list of the “50 most powerful women in business,” and she was named one of the “25 most influential women” by the Financial Times in 2021. She is also one of only two Black women CEOs among the Fortune 500 companies.
“Our goal is to help bridge the gap between digital capabilities and physical experiences.”
CEO, Walgreens Boots Alliance
For years, Brewer has learned how to find her voice and take chances throughout her career — some of which were considered “demotions,” yet “great learning opportunities — to get to the top spots.”
Brewer has stated that bringing her whole self to work is one of the keys to her success, as is putting down her phone and “listening to team members” while having a growth mindset.
Walgreens team members say they are inspired by Brewer’s approach to envisioning a new way to connect healthcare and “to create better patient access and healthcare equity in its communities.” Brewer’s commitment to bridging the “gap between digital capabilities and physical experiences” has her Walgreens colleagues thinking of innovative ways to tap into the pharmacy’s rich database of prescription insights and experience.
In an interview with PharmaVoice, the company’s chief clinical trials officer, Ramita Tandon, discussed why Walgreens is well-positioned to play a part in expanding access to clinical trials.
“Because Walgreens sits on a tremendous asset of a ‘live and breathing’ network of over 130 million-plus U.S. consumers and patients who visit local stores and use the MyWalgreens app, we are in a unique position to disrupt the clinical trial value chain and reach a diverse population faster and tailored to meet their needs and preferences,” Tandon said.
Brewer’s influence extends beyond the healthcare world as well. In addition to her CEO position, Brewer serves as the chair of the board of trustees at her alma mater Spelman College. She also serves on the boards of VillageMD, World Business Chicago, Business Roundtable and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Brewer formerly served on the Board of Directors for Starbucks, Amazon, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Molson Coors Brewing Company.