Walgreens Joins Push to Expand Health Services While Diversifying its Executive Team

November 23, 2021

Walgreens is keeping its foot on the accelerator — fueling the addition of medical services at pharmacies while deepening its commitment to diversity in its leadership ranks. 

As one of America’s most storied pharmacy chains, Walgreens has been on the front lines of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as vaccines became widely available in 2021. When the company reported annual earnings in October 2021, it also introduced Walgreens Health, an initiative to integrate medical services into its pharmacy business. 

“Our strategy leverages an ecosystem including our trusted brands, exceptional assets, healthcare expertise, and scale, integrated with a range of new talent, capabilities, resources and an intensified focus on operational excellence to drive long-term sustainable profit growth,” said Roz Brewer, chief executive officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), the U.S. chain’s global parent company.

Walgreens has more than 9,000 drugstores in all 50 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. WBA reported global sales from continuing operations of $132.5 billion for fiscal 2021, up 8.6% from the year before.

Brewer: A CEO who Champions Diverse Talents and Outcomes 

Brewer made headlines early in 2021 when her appointment as WBA’s CEO made her the only current Black female leader of a Fortune 500 company (Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of TIAA, became the second in May 2021). 

Brewer recently hired two Black female executives to its WBA’s ranks: Danielle Gray, executive vice president and global chief legal officer, and Tracey Brown president of retail products and chief customer officer, overseeing merchandising and marketing. Gray was a legal counsel in the Obama Administration. Brewer and Brown worked together at Sam’s Club, where Brewer was CEO from 2012 to 2017. 

Other key executive hires will help WBA put diverse talents to work serving diverse communities: Holly May, EVP, and global chief human resources officer, and Anita Allemand, chief transformation and integration officer. They have big challenges ahead of them. 

Redefining the Business of a Pharmacy

With the launch of Walgreens Health, the company joins a growing effort to provide medical services through pharmacies. CVS, Walgreen’s biggest competitor in the U.S., also is pushing the same idea. Both companies face a squeeze on their prescription drug business, according to the Wall Street Journal. Adding medical services like diagnostic testing and urgent care aims to re-energize their businesses.

“Walgreens Health will bring equitable, personalized, whole-person healthcare to local communities across America, wherever and however it’s best for consumers – in-store, at home, in the doctor’s office, and via mobile app,” the company stated. WBA more than doubled its investment in VillageMD, a chain of primary care practices. The goal: open 600 Village Medical at Walgreens primary care practices by 2025 and 1,000 by 2027. More than half of them are to be in underserved communities, Walgreens stated. 

Business and Personal

Brewer’s commitment to diversity is part business — finding the best people across multiple groups and life experiences — and part personal: She’s driven to make the world a better place. “I see so many ills that still need energy and need a voice,” Brewer told Today.com. “I hope that I can still be that person to make change happen. I really hope so.”

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