Emerging Health Leaders: Harold Carter of Express Scripts

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MHE Publication, MHE October 2021, Volume 3, Issue 10

Harold Carter is one of 13 up-and-coming health leaders featured in this annual Managed Healthcare Executive series.

Harold Carter, Pharm.D., vice president of pharma trade relations at Express Scripts in St. Louis

I grew up in St. Louis and received my doctorate of pharmacy in 2011 from the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis.

I’m proud to have led the development of a number of Express Scripts’ solutions, including Express Scripts’ Patient Assurance Program, which increases adherence to critical diabetes medications by removing cost as a barrier to access, and Express Scripts’ SafeGuardRx Solutions, which leverages specialized clinical care and value-based contracting strategies. These solutions help lower prescription drug costs and reduce downstream medical events and costs.

Who has had the greatest influence on your life?

My grandfather, whom I was named after. He had a strong work ethic and funny personality, and he was always willing to assist others. Whether it was from his time in the military, in the St. Louis Fire Department, or simply lending a helping hand, I learned the importance and satisfaction that comes from giving back to your community. Regardless of the adversity that my grandfather faced, he never complained or made excuses.

Why did you pursue a career in healthcare?

One summer in high school, I had the unfortunate luck (or so I thought!) of not finding a summer job. Because my dad didn’t want me sitting around the house all summer, he suggested I volunteer at a local hospital. I gained exposure to all of the hospital’s different functions and was especially intrigued with pharmacy. I became enamored with the role that pharmacists played within the healthcare system, particularly the interactions they had with patients and other healthcare professionals on a daily basis. After that experience, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare.

Which career accomplishment has given you the greatest satisfaction?

My greatest career accomplishment is the privilege to mentor and develop students on pharmacy rotations as well as other colleagues across the organization. My mentors have been key to my career’s success. For me, being able to pass that wisdom and guidance forward to others is a gift within itself.

What has your organization’s role been in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines?

During the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, Express Scripts played a critical role in supporting on-site vaccination clinics, educating clients and patients, and partnering with industry leaders.

Our parent company, Cigna, has driven a number of incentive programs for U.S. employees, including a $200 well-being incentive award for employees in the Cigna Medical Plan who report that they are fully vaccinated and a drawing for an all-expenses-paid trip. We also have paid time off for vaccine appointments and recovery to encourage vaccine adoption and create healthy work sites.

What would be the best way to reduce healthcare inequities in the U.S.?

Too often in the U.S. a person’s health outcomes can be determined by the community they live in. To reduce inequities, we must do better at putting the appropriate resources — such as hospitals, clinics, food banks and literacy services — into underserved communities.

Name a book or article that everyone in healthcare should read.

Although its message is not unique to healthcare, I highly recommend the Harvard Business Review article “Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey,” by William Oncken Jr. and Donald L. Wass for emerging leaders in any industry. Time management and understanding where to focus are extremely important skills for any leader. In an industry as complex as healthcare, we often face competing priorities that drive our day. This article teaches how to prioritize important work, how to empower your team to think critically and how to use effective communication to build trust.