Walgreens taps former CVS, Solera Health exec Mary Langowski to lead healthcare business

Walgreens is shaking up its healthcare executive leadership as it looks to boost profitability in its fledgling healthcare business, which includes its hefty acquisitions of VillageMD, Summit Health/CityMD and CareCentrix.

The retail pharmacy giant tapped Mary Langowski, who led growth strategies at CVS and Solera Health, to run its health services segment, the company announced Thursday.

Langowski has been appointed executive vice president and president, U.S. Healthcare. She was previously CEO of Solera Health, a value-based technology business serving payers and employers, since 2020. Prior to Solera, Langowski served as executive vice president and chief strategy and corporate development officer at CVS Health, where she is credited with leading the foundational work for its healthcare services strategy and key aspects of CVS’ acquisition of Aetna.

Her experience spans payer organizations, pharmacy, retail healthcare services and providers as well as senior roles in federal and state government.

Current executive vice president and president, U.S. Healthcare, John Driscoll, will transition to a senior advisory role working closely with Wentworth, Langowski and the U.S. Healthcare business, the company said.

The company also announced two other executive appointments Thursday--Manmohan Mahajan was appointed permanent chief financial officer and Elizabeth Burger joins WBA as chief human resources officer.

Langowski, Mahajan and Burger will report directly to Wentworth and join WBA’s current Executive Committee.

“Today’s announcement solidifies the leadership team that will carry WBA into its future as we look to expand our reach beyond neighborhood pharmacies into the fastest-growing areas of healthcare,” Tim Wentworth, Walgreens CEO, said in a statement. Wentworth jumped on board at Walgreens just last October.

“We have a strong team with a track record of operational excellence and an unwavering commitment to the execution of our goals. The spirit of this leadership team is one of collaboration, transparency and working effectively together. We share a sharp focus on the important goals in front of us, unlocking embedded profitability and reshaping our healthcare strategy to deliver sustainable value for our stakeholders," Wentworth said.

Langowski will lead WBA’s U.S. Healthcare segment as Walgreens works to grow its reach in healthcare. The company plans to "build on its strengths in pharmacy to unlock new areas of profitable growth and bringing high-value solutions to industry players, including payers, health systems, PBMs and biopharma manufacturers," executives said.

Healthcare executives said Walgreens' decision to hire Langowski was a smart, strategic move.

"I think it is an inspired pick," said Adam Boehler, CEO of Rubicon Founders, told Fierce Healthcare, noting her experience growing CVS' healthcare business along with her policy leadership roles. "She's very smart and very driven. I know they want to make changes at Walgreens, so I think it's a big job and you want somebody that can handle herself in a larger organization, but it's also entrepreneurial, so I think Mary has that mix and you can see it in her experience."

Boehler added, "I think that she understands the challenges [Walgreens] is facing. She is a very action-oriented person. I think in this role, you need a balance because Walgreens isn't a startup, so you need someone who can handle themselves in a larger organization but still take quick action."

Karen Teitlebaum, former CEO of Sinai Chicago, said Langowski has a strong background in how to use healthcare technology as an enabler to accelerate growth. 

"She is strategically focused on outcomes, she'll drive to outcomes, but she also understands deeply the healthcare strategy that's important to move a company like Walgreens ahead today in this financially challenging environment," Teitlebaum told Fierce Healthcare.

As Walgreens faces pressure to improve its financial performance while also growing its reach in healthcare, Langowski brings both strategic and operational expertise, other healthcare leaders said.

"Mary is just one of those really rare healthcare leaders who both thinks big, has a compelling strategic vision and mind and can spot patterns because she worked in government, she's had payers as clients. She's worked for some of the biggest consumer healthcare consumer retail companies, so she can feel the strategy, but she also can execute," Sarah Iselin, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, told Fierce Healthcare. "She has a really deep understanding of operations and what it takes to execute and finding leaders who understand how to do both of those things, it's just a rare combination of skills."

At Solera Health, Langowski joined as interim CEO in 2019 and then moved into the permanent position in 2020.

"I have worked closely with Mary at Solera and have watched her and the team transform the business from a single condition start-up to a growing company covering many health conditions," said Matt Downs, managing director at Blue Venture Fund and a board member of Solera.

"She will bring the same vision and focus on execution to Walgreens. We are also fortunate she will continue as chair of Solera Health and continue to provide the strategic direction the company needs into the future," he said.

Walgreens is making moves to improve its financial performance after a massive growth spurt in which it acquired home healthcare business CareCentrix and VillageMD's acquisition of Summit Health-CityMD. Walgreens has closed 27 underperforming VillageMD clinics as part of a plan to close 60 clinics this year.

Executives said during a recent earnings call that Walgreens is on track with cost-cutting initiatives that aim to cut $1 billion in expenses this year. The company also wants to increase cash flow and free up capital to spend growing its pharmacy and healthcare businesses.

There are also reports that Walgreens is exploring a potential sale of its specialty pharmacy business Shields Health Solutions, just two-and-half years after it bought a majority stake in the business.