Tag Archives: George Barrett

George Barrett Manages Healthcare, And Change

George Barrett– the 1973 Staples grad who starred in soccer, basketball and baseball and sang with the Orphenians — has had a storied career.

After graduating from Brown University with a double major in history and music, he taught and coached at Horace Mann, performed opera and folk music professionally, and got an MBA from NYU.

Today — hey, why not? — he’s chairman and CEO of Cardinal Health, the enormous healthcare company ranked #26 on the Fortune 500. He serves on many civic and charitable boards (including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), and has an honorary doctorate from LIU.

Recently, Institutional Investor spoke to Barrett. He discussed a number of topics, including the vast changes sweeping healthcare.

George Barrett (Photo/Andrew Spear for Institutional Investor)

George Barrett (Photo/Andrew Spear for Institutional Investor)

Among the questions and answers:

Talk about the incredible changes taking place in health care, including the ACA.

These were the changes we were thinking about back in 2009, when we started to regroup. It’s well beyond the Affordable Care Act, which hadn’t yet been implemented. Demographic changes are tremendous. We have a dramatically aging population. We have 11 million people today over the age of 80. That number will double by 2025. This is just in the U.S., but it’s happening globally as well. As you know, older people are higher consumers of health care products and services. That creates economic pressures. How are we going to give these people access? We are spending around 18 percent of GDP on health care, crowding out spending on other issues like infrastructure and education.

Innovation is also transforming health care and our ability not only to prolong life and treat disease, but in some cases to cure diseases and repair physical pathologies with medical devices. Finally, the big trend is consumers becoming more like consumers, meaning they will have a greater role in their own health and, ideally, in their own wellness.

How do these forces change what you do as a company?

It changes everything: how we deliver care, in what setting we deliver care and by whom. How do you measure the quality of the care over time and, of course, who pays for it?

What’s the most difficult part of planning for that?

Cardinal Health logoWell, the easier part was clearly having a point of view on what kind of changes would occur. The hardest part, in a way, is managing pace. It wasn’t impossible to imagine some of the changes or how they might play out, although getting them all right is, of course, impossible. What’s most difficult is over what time period. How fast does it occur? How dramatic are the changes?

As a leader, that’s actually one of the biggest challenges. I could assume that change will happen as it has historically, just rather slowly, and you just stick exactly to what got you there. Then you run the risk of really being disrupted or blindsided. On the other hand, you can assume that change is going to occur overnight, very fast. You’re so preoccupied with the future you’re not focusing on the disciplines of competing in today’s world, and you get hurt in your core activities, and you’re sort of out over your skis on the future. I think this issue of managing pace is important. I remind the organization all the time that we need to compete to win in the world as we know it today, and — it’s an and, not an or — have a clear point of view on some of these future trends and make some thoughtful, disciplined, measured bets on the long term.

Health care is obviously a big issue in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. There may be enormous changes coming regardless of which party wins. How do you plan around that?

George Barrett (Photo/Stephen Webster for Barrons)

George Barrett (Photo/Stephen Webster for Barrons)

I mentioned earlier that it’s hard to judge pace. Now add the complexity of the political year and the political discourse, which can be headline driving, but not necessarily deeply informed as to what’s happening on the ground in health care. I think we have to remind ourselves that what’s happening in the trenches is often different than what’s happening in the news.

It’s going to be a year where there’s a lot of discussion in the political realm about health care. There are certainly those who continue to talk about whether the Affordable Care Act is going to be repealed. I think undoing that is extremely difficult and we would not bet on that. I do think, like any piece of large social legislation, it will probably be modified over time. I don’t think that would be unusual. I think for us the key is staying agile, having a point of view on the future, making sure we have a seat at the table as we’re thinking about policy changes and that our voice is heard.

(To read the entire interview, click here. Hat tip: Michael Mahoney)

Remembering Lou Barrett

Lucille “Lou” Barrett — a member of that great generation of post-war Westporters who helped define this town for half a century — died early today. She was 92 years old.

Lou was a lifelong educator. She began in Greenwich Village in the 1940s, and spent many years in the Westport school system. After she retired, she became a sought-after writing coach. Perhaps best known as a Staples High School English teacher, she was beloved by colleagues and students for her deep wisdom, gentle nature, and genuine concern for everyone she met.

Lucille "Lou" Barrett

Lucille “Lou” Barrett

As a founding member of Temple Israel, she helped create one of the town’s most active social justice institutions. As first principal of its religious school, she made sure that there was as strong an emphasis on current affairs as on Jewish education.

Lou was also a gifted poet. She was published frequently — including 5 collections that explore fearlessly and with intensity her Jewish heritage, her childhood in Brookly, and her maturing to adulthood and old age — and never missed a chance to pass on her love for the craft.

Her son George says:

Mom was humble, fierce in her convictions, devoted, and always focused on the needs of others. I have heard over the years many stories from people I don’t even know about how my mother transformed their lives, or started their careers, or pushed them to take a chance on something in which they believed.

She believed in her students, her children and her friends, and strove to help them see in themselves the strength and beauty she saw in them. She treated every one with honesty and respect.

She was also the connecting tissue for an enormous family ecosystem that now spans 4 generations, and multiple continents.

Lou’s husband, Herb, died this past May, at 93. The Barretts were married for 73 years. Lou is survived by 5 children, 10 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is set for Tuesday (October 6, 12:30 p.m.), at Temple Israel, with private burial service to follow. The family will sit shiva after hte burial at the home of Marvin and Joan Frimmer in Westport. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Congregation Kol Ami, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, or Temple Israel, Westport.

Remembering Herb Barrett

Herb Barrett — a member of that great generation who settled in Westport soon after World War II, raised a family here and spent decades contributing to civic life — died today. He was 93 years old, and had moved with his beloved wife Lou to Pennsylvania several years ago, to be near his children.

George Barrett — one of Herb and Lou’s 5 children — writes:

My dad liked to describe himself as unremarkable, but  he was far from that. He was a gifted therapist, possessed of a special capacity to see the unique qualities in all people – and able to help people to see those things in themselves.

Herb Barrett

Herb Barrett

He was a very talented writer, a skill very few of us had the opportunity to enjoy, but so very obvious when reading though his journals and his letters to my mom from the war.

He had a raw musical aptitude which he never fully appreciated, but which his children were encouraged to polish. He could burst into song any time, and no microphone was off limits if it were in reaching distance.

He had a wicked sense of humor and an impish grin.

He was a proud veteran of the US Army – Signal Intelligence  Company, attached to the 5th Army headquarters. He spent 2 1/2 years abroad, in North Africa, Sicily and other parts of Italy. He lived through Anzio, which he rarely discussed.

He was married to my mom Lucille for more than 73 years. He was father to 5, grandfather to 10, and great-grandfather to 3 (with another on the way).

He loved Westport, and everything and everyone associated with Westport. At Compo Beach, he taught all of us to climb the cannons. Along with my mom, he lived and breathed the public school system, which drew him there in the first place. I’m not sure that he ever missed a Staples Candlelight concert when he was healthy.

He had a deep desire to see the walls between people dissolve. That is clear through his deep commitment to civil rights, his clear messaging to his children, and this classic section from a journal I found where he discussed his war experience:

I developed some wonderful friendships with the gang of fellows who shared the same tent…Neils O. Blackburn from Moroni, Utah; Kenny Biggs from Townsend, Montana; Charlie Sheehan from Cheyenne, Wyomingl Lou Ambort of Little Rock, Arkansas and Johnny Abs from Chicago.

Herb Barrett, during World War II.

Herb Barrett, during World War II.

I recall a discussion the night we pitched camp outside Santa Maria ( near Caserta). It was a bone chilling rainy night, and we piled together for warmth inside the buffeted pyramidal. How or why I can’t say, but we discussed religion — a Mormon, a Catholic, a Jew, a Lutheran, a Methodist and a Presbyterian.

We were no scholars. We just compared experiences. And when all was said and done, we felt that what we had in common ran deeper than our specific beliefs.

(Friends are invited to attend a service for Herb Barrett this Thursday (May 21), 11 a.m. at Temple Israel. Following burial, the family will receive visitors at the home of Marvin and Joan Frimmer, 138 Imperial Avenue. Contributions in Herb Barrett’s name may be made to Congregation Kol Ami, 8201 High School Road, Elkins Park, PA 19027.)

Sportsmen (And Women) Of Westport

The Sportsmen of Westport annual dinner is always an interesting affair.

The event — now in its 51st year — honors an eclectic group of former athletes. Many competed as youngsters in Westport; some arrived here after their playing days were over, but got involved in town sports.

All have intriguing stories to tell.

Three wrestlers will be honored at this year’s dinner (Tuesday, May 22, 6 p.m., Continental Manor in Norwalk). Nick Garoffolo, Mike Breen and Andy Lobsenz were all stars during Staples’ grappling heyday; all continue to give back to their sport, long after their days on the mat are over.

Ex-Staples baseball and football standout Jeb Backus — later a softball star, now a youth coach — will be feted. So will Danbury High basketball, field hockey and track ace Janet Zamary, who went on to become Staples’ first athletic trainer, and now as a phys. ed. teacher heads up the school’s highly regarded Unified Sports program for students with disabilities. And longtime Little League volunteer Joe Nixon too.

Three other honorees have gone on to non-athletic careers.  But they may not be where they are today without the lessons they learned as kids, on the fields.

George Barrett

George Barrett was a superb soccer, basketball and baseball player at Staples. A back injury ended his soccer career at Brown University. He coached and taught at the Horace Mann School in New York, and got an MBA at NYU. Today he’s chairman and CEO of Cardinal Health, ranked #19 on the Fortune 500, and a major healthcare company. He serves on numerous civic and charitable boards, and has an honorary doctorate from LIU.

Suzanne Allen Redpath

Suzy Allen played field hockey and ran track for legendary Staples coach Jinny Parker. After Hollins College she joined CBS News, where she’s had an astonishing 40-year career. She was Walter Cronkite’s researcher during Watergate; covered earth-shaking events like the rise of Solidarity in Poland and the Falklands War, and then — as CBS Evening News senior producer for foreign coverage — directed and oversaw stories like the fall of communism, the emergence of democracy in China, and 9/11. Suzy — now Suzanne Allen Redpath — has won Emmy and DuPont Awards, and received an honorary doctorate from Hollins.

Rich Franzis

Rich Franzis is known to many Westporters as an assistant principal at Staples. Many do not know that he played football at Shelton High. A longtime U.S. Army reservist with the rank of colonel, he was deployed to Iraq where he oversaw the intelligence operations of 5 brigades. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service.

George, Suzy, Rich and the other very worthy honorees may or may not discuss the role athletics has played in their lives, when they make their speeches May 22.

But — if they’re anything like the five decades of Sportsmen honorees before them — they’ll definitely tell tales of games, coaches, teammates and opponents in the social hour before the dinner, all during the meal, and long into the night.

They’ve accomplished plenty professionally, in the years since the last whistles blew.

But at this month’s banquet — and, really, their entire lives — they’re sportsmen. The capital letter — Sportsmen — is just one more feather in their caps.

(Tickets, at $50 each, are available at Settlers & Traders Real Estate, 215 Post Road West; Junior’s Hot Dog Stand, 265 Riverside Avenue, or by emailing karen_defelice@westport.k12.ct.us. For more information call 203-341-1365, or click here. )