As Kaiser Permanente’s new CPO – chief pharmacy officer – Mary Beth is a key part of the healthcare response to Covid-19.
When Mary Beth Lang D’12 left Pittsburgh for California to take a job as chief of supply chain and procurement at Kaiser Permanente in 2019, nobody knew a worldwide pandemic soon would throw the global supply chain into turmoil.
The previous year had been exhausting for Mary Beth. She had taken a year off work to care for her sister, Kathy, who had suffered from terminal brain cancer and had passed away in April. A move to the West Coast offered a refreshing change for the family, putting them close to scenic national parks where she and her husband, Jeff, could hike with their children, Ceili, Xavier, and Colm, and their golden labradoodle, Miles.
Then Covid-19 happened, and the job of procuring nearly 1 billion supplies for 39 medical centers and 719 medical office buildings in the nation’s largest nonprofit health system and health plan became much more complicated.
N95 masks and isolation gowns, crucial to keeping health care workers safe, were suddenly in short supply. Mary Beth and her team at Kaiser Permanente’s headquarters in Oakland, Calif., forged relationships with West Coast companies that had connections to suppliers in China and Malaysia. “Many of them were willing to help healthcare companies,” she says. “We were able to use their expertise to move products from overseas. We also rented warehouse space from them.”
Mary Beth also procured a three-to-six-month supply of many pharmaceuticals before the first wave of Covid-19 reached the United States. Having stayed ahead of a chaotic situation, she was promoted to chief pharmacy officer in September. Now she oversees an operation that dispenses approximately 100 million prescriptions and $10 billion in pharmaceutical spending per year in a division with 15,000 employees. Her team in pharmacy coordinates the administration of vaccines, examining literature about boosters and encouraging flu vaccinations.
Mary Beth started out as a pharmacist in Pittsburgh, and was introduced to supply chain working for a healthcare group purchasing company where she focused on pharmaceuticals. A doctorate from RMU in information systems and communications has helped her process information and foresee problems in the ever-changing field of healthcare.
“What I really loved about the program was the system thinking skills,” she says. “Not only do you look at an issue but also the ecosystem around an issue. It’s one thing to make a decision, it’s another thing to think downstream of the decision about all the intended or unintended consequences.”