Jamie Horst always has her eye on the future. Whether she’s strategizing more sustainable business practices or opening conversations on how to improve patient safety, she knows that addressing tough issues today can mean better outcomes tomorrow—and for years to come.

Having that foresight is crucial in her role as senior director of corporate responsibility for McKesson. But it’s the compassion and dedication she embodies that make Horst so uniquely perfect for the job. Mining her experience with strategic management and community engagement, Horst listens carefully to the concerns of stakeholders and customers. She doesn’t shy away from a tough conversation if it means a better long-term solution. And she helps guide our programs and disclosures on everything from patient safety to eco-efficient transportation.

In this edition of Expert Spotlight, we sat down with Horst to discuss what that strategic planning looks like—and how we can continue to improve the health of our patients, their communities, and the environment.

How would you describe your role at McKesson?

Horst: I’m the senior director of corporate responsibility for McKesson. I lead our community engagement efforts. I’m also responsible for understanding our environmental and social impacts on the world and how we’re going to share that story.

What’s your favorite part of your work?

Horst: My favorite part of this job is getting to work with people around the world and ask tough questions that help guide important conversations. It’s important for us to think about product and patient safety. It’s important to think about regulations and compliance. But we also need to think about our global, long-term impact. We need to consider what we’re doing as a company to advocate for the health of our patients and the health of the environment.

Is there something about your work that you’re most proud of?

Horst: I’m proud that we’ve been able to focus on what corporate responsibility means on a global level. For example, climate change is something we’re all facing together. And one of the main topics we’ve heard about from stakeholders is eco-efficient transportation and operations. So being able to confront those challenges as a company, from a global standpoint, is really powerful.

I’m also proud of our volunteer involvement. We do a signature event every fall called Community Days, and have since 1998. Over 57% of our employees in North America participate. During Community Days, our employees create care packages for cancer patients. They include things like blankets for people going to infusion centers and notebooks with personalized messages. We regularly hear back from people that it brightened their day. To know that a stranger cared enough to take that time is meaningful.

What has your career path been like?

Horst: I started my career in finance before moving into supply chain. I got my MBA in strategic management and organizational behavior. From there, I went into internal strategy consulting. This work taught me that even the best strategy on paper is not going to execute itself. You need to have the right people aligned with every step of the process. You need strategies that get everyone moving in the same direction. The more I delved into these themes, the more I fell in love with the idea of helping to maximize potential.

Eventually, through the strategy work, I did a project with a corporate foundation, and that opened up the door for me to move into this world full-time. Traditionally, community engagement has strategic components, but it’s a little bit outside the core business operation. So I feel like corporate responsibility marries those two worlds of strategy and community engagement fairly well.

What are you working on now that you’re most excited about?

Horst: I’m most excited about our first materiality study, which we did in 2017. The study involved deep listening to multiple stakeholder groups. We considered the perspectives of customers, suppliers, investors and community leaders. We asked them how they think we’re doing from environmental and social viewpoints. Based on their feedback, we prioritized a list of actions.

For me, that’s really exciting, because we’re getting external feedback. We want to invite others into this conversation. We want to be aware of potential blind spots. And we want to make sure we’re addressing the concerns of different groups of people.

What’s the question stakeholders or customers ask you most often?

Horst: Many of our customers and investors want to know about targets for more sustainable practices. Science-based targets are part of the future of healthcare and something some of our customers are really interested in. How can we reduce emissions and consumption overall? It’s a big discussion and requires a lot of commitment and vision. Stakeholders and customers want to know what we’re doing to tackle those goals.

What do you tell them?

Horst: For many years, McKesson has been thinking about how to conserve resources and how to offer things like eco-efficient transportation. But it’s not enough to just say we’re trying to reduce emissions. We need to set targets and hold ourselves accountable if we want to be innovators. And discuss how we’re going to publish and meet those targets.

Since we’re all about better health, how do you stay on top of your own health and wellness?

Horst: My passion is mountain climbing. I’ve climbed a number of mountains here in California, and in the North Cascades. Next year I’d like to climb Cotopaxi (a volcano in Ecuador). So anything I can do to stay in shape for the next big adventure is part of my routine. I do a lot of ballet/barre and a lot of hiking with my dogs. I also recently returned to running—which is my arch nemesis—but maintaining that solid base of health is important so I feel prepared when another trip opens up.

What do you think patients need most when it comes to better care?

Horst: I think for me, the answer is always more compassion. Healthcare is a system, and I get that. I understand the pressures and constraints of time. But we can always use more empathy throughout that system. When you find doctors who are truly invested in their patients’ outcomes, that makes a real difference.

What do you hope will change in healthcare?

Horst: My hope is that there continues to be an emphasis on preventative medicine. Our culture has a tendency to wait until things have gone too far before we address them. We know we should get more sleep. We know we need to drink more water. Many of us just don’t do it until we have some kind of crisis situation. So I wish people had more resources to take that proactive approach. That’s not just better for the individual, but for communities as well. As much as we’re connected through technology these days, we’re also more isolated. As a society, there needs to be a sense of responsibility around the collective well-being of our communities. I think the more we’re able to take care of one another, the better.

To read about our corporate responsibility efforts in fiscal year 2018, download our report.

Related: Learn more about McKesson’s corporate social responsibility strategy

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McKesson editorial staff is committed to sharing innovative approaches and insights so our customers can get the most out of their business solutions and identify areas for operational improvement and revenue growth.

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