Adam Kautzner has deep expertise in all areas of pharmacy benefit management, including pharma relations, formulary development, value-based solutions, and pharmacy network contracting. Kautzner was recently named president of Express Scripts, the pharmacy benefits management arm of Evernorth.
We sat down with Kautzner, who joined Express Scripts about 15 years ago, to ask about his upbringing, how his personal cancer journey shaped his approach to customer service, and how he empowers his teams. Read on to get to know Adam and the work he’s doing to help the organization move forward, innovate, and solve complex challenges to serve more people.
Tell me about yourself. Where were you born? What were you like as a kid?
I was born and raised right outside of St. Louis, in a small town called Hillsboro, Missouri. I’m the oldest of three children, and because our parents were teachers, our family was heavily involved with everything that went on in town and at school. I was really into sports and played football and basketball throughout my school years. I spent a lot of time outside and in the woods exploring nature as a kid, and to this day I still enjoy the peace and solitude that comes with the outdoors.
Adam Kautzner as a child.
What’s one thing about you as a kid that’s still true about you today?
In my family, we stayed busy. My maternal grandfather was an Italian immigrant, and he’d come over every Saturday to help us work on the house. My siblings and I knew that once he came over, we weren’t just going to sit around and spend time with our grandpa – he’d put us right to work. We were taught a work ethic from a young age, and I think that’s something that has certainly carried through into my adult life and my professional career. I don’t sit still – just ask my wife – and I’m willing to put in the hard work.
What do you like to do for fun?
My neighbors have a pickleball court that they put in their driveway during COVID, and that’s something I’ve grown to enjoy. I also really like to stand-up paddleboard.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a professional basketball player, but I figured out fairly early on that wasn’t going to happen. And at some point, I had my heart set on becoming an equities trader. I wanted to work on Wall Street.
How’d you end up in health care?
I went to St. Louis College of Pharmacy, then started working in a retail pharmacy for a small regional hospital. I quickly realized that traditional health care wasn’t for me, and that I was more interested in the business side of health care.
I actually ended up taking a job in the nuclear pharmacy space, which I really enjoyed and learned a lot from. I had moved to Chicago at that point, and the job I had felt very much like I was running my own shop, which was really appealing to me.
So what finally brought you to Express Scripts?
Family brought me to Express Scripts. Nuclear pharmacy was fun, but for one week each month I had to be on call to work the night shift. I’d start work at midnight and work through the night until morning, which works for a young, single person. It doesn’t work as well for someone who is married with children.
What attracted me to Express Scripts is that it gave me that opportunity to be on the business side of pharmacy, and the potential for growth was endless. My wife had worked for Express Scripts, and it had a reputation for being a hard-working hustle kind of place, and so I started applying for positions and finally got hired into a clinical product management role.
Now, 15 years later, you’ve just taken on the position of president of Express Scripts. What does your new role entail?
I’ll be leading the supply chain as well as leading the work we do with pharmaceutical manufacturers, network pharmacies, and drug wholesalers. I’ll also be leading our efforts around product development, account management, and operations.
How have your own healthcare experiences helped shape the work you do for our clients and members?
My experience as a cancer patient has really shaped how I approach the work we do for our members and our clients. I was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in my early thirties.
One of the key learning I got from that experience is that the health care system is really difficult to navigate for the average person. I’m in the industry. I did a lot of research. And I had a lot of resources at my fingertips – which, unfortunately, isn’t the case for all Americans. I think there’s a big opportunity to simplify the experience for patients and make it more seamless and connected, so that they have one less thing to worry about when they are going through such a difficult time in their lives.
I ended up finding a clinical trial in Florida, and I flew down and got treatment there every few weeks, which I’d argue saved my life. I’m extremely thankful for that, but I do recognize that there are people in this country who don’t have the same access as I do. Being from Missouri, I have a soft spot in my heart for people from rural America, and they are really limited in their access to good care. I believe we have a big opportunity as a health services company to improve care delivery for rural Americans, particularly with virtual care.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I’m really proud of the time I’ve spent in developing people who have worked for me. Our organization has a great history of promoting from within and helping people be the best leaders they can be. I can proudly say that I've been able to help develop talent and foster growth through mentorship.
From a business perspective, I’m really proud of all we have done to build our value-based care solution (SafeGuardRx) portfolio, which touches about 70 million lives. To see it grow from just myself and an idea to now having a giant team around it is really rewarding.
If I asked your team to describe you in three words, what words do you think they would use?
Calm, creative, and confident.
What does good leadership look like, and how do you try to emulate that with your team?
Good leadership is all about empowerment. I’m all about empowering my team to make decisions and have autonomy in their roles, empowering them to be great leaders, and empowering them to grow within this organization. I’m here to foster my team’s improvement and growth.