Ryan, Thomas M. 1953–

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Thomas M. Ryan

Chairman, president, and chief executive officer, CVS Corporation

Nationality: American.

Born: 1953.

Education: University of Rhode Island, BS, 1975.

Family: Married Cathy.

Career: CVS Corporation, 1975, pharmacist; 19751988, various positions; 19881990, senior vice president of pharmacy; 19901998, executive vice president of stores; 1998, president and chief executive officer; 1999, chairman.

Awards: Honorary doctor of business administration, Johnson & Wales University, 1999; honorary doctorate of humane letters, University of Rhode Island, 1999; Gold Heart Award, American Heart Association, 2002; honorary doctorate of science in pharmacy, University of Rhode Island, 2003; Mass Market Retailer of the Year, Mass Market Retailer, 2003.

Address: CVS Corporation, One CVS Drive, Woonsocket, Rhode Island 02895; http://www.cvs.com.

Thomas M. Ryan joined CVS Corporation in 1975 as a pharmacist. He was promoted through progressively more responsible positions and was named vice president of pharmacy operations in 1985. Ryan became senior vice president of pharmacies in 1988 and executive vice president of stores in 1990. He was named president and chief executive officer in 1998 and was elected chairman in 1999. Ryan relinquished his position as president for a short time in 1999 and later resumed the role. He also served as president and chief executive officer of CVS Pharmacy.

CVS, which stands for "consumer value stores," was formerly known as Melville Corporation, and was part of the Melville retail group that also included Linens 'n Things, KB Toys, and Marshall's. CVS was the exclusive online pharmacy for Healtheon/WebMD, an Internet-based company that linked physicians, consumers, and corporations in the health-care industry.


Ryan's main role in leading one of the largest retail pharmacy chains in the United States focused on controlling and managing growth. CVS had grown through acquiring other retail pharmacy chains, including Revco, People's Drug, Arbor, and Big B. The Revco acquisition alone doubled CVS's store count. Meanwhile, the company continued to build new stores. This rapid, exponential growth caused concerns about daily operations at the stores and the need for a unified approach to doing business.

In a relatively short time, CVS became independent from the Melville group, issued public stock, and tripled the number of stores in the chain. In an effort to bring the new stores and larger workforce together under the CVS umbrella, Ryan initiated a store relocation and redesign program. Inline stores were moved to freestanding sites, which helped to provide easier access and often included drive-through pharmacy service. At about the same time, CVS introduced its revolutionary customer loyalty program and created its leading-edge PharmaCare subsidiary. PharmaCare became one of the top 10 pharmacy benefit managers in the United States, at one time handling pharmacy benefits for an estimated 14 million patients. A former pharmacist, Ryan ensured that CVS stores were equipped with the most technologically advanced systems, including automated workflow tools for pharmacists and an automated prescription refill service for customers.


Integration was a key theme of Ryan's tenure at CVS. He promoted six values of success throughout the company: respect for the individual, integrity, teamwork, sense of urgency, openness, and a willingness to embrace change. Ryan guided CVS by the benchmarks of convenience, value, and serviceanother interpretation of the CVS name. By adhering to these standards, Ryan believed that each employee could contribute to making CVS the store of choice for busy consumers.

Ryan focused CVS on becoming the easiest retail pharmacy for shoppers to use. He was involved in every detail, from store layout through merchandising to customer service. Ryan's goal was to provide a shopping experience that supplied necessary items such as prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well as optional items such as magazines, candy, and household goods. Ryan wanted CVS to offer complete pharmacy coverage so that customers could get retail, mail-order, and prescription benefit manager services from a single source.

Ryan created a unified culture throughout CVS by supporting employee development within a learning organization. He promoted open communication to implement his vision and the programs that supported it. The theme of customer service was carried out externally as well as internally. Ryan held regular town hall meetings with employees. Under Ryan's leadership, every employee was empowered to make a difference, and all employees were held responsible for their duties.


Ryan caught national attention when he began to speak out in support of reforms of U.S. drug importation policies. Disagreeing with prevailing attitudes in the retail pharmacy industry, Ryan called for federal policy changes to reduce costs for prescription drug consumers. "We cannot allow millions of our fellow citizens to go without life-sustaining medications due to arbitrary international trade practices. We don't do it for sugar, rice, or corn, we shouldn't do it for life-saving medications," Ryan told Chain Drug Review.

Testifying before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Drug Importation Task Force, Ryan brought media attention to the growing use of reimportation by consumers using the Internet and international pharmacies. Ryan told Tony Lisanti of Drug Store News, "It is not acceptable to allow this trade to continue in the shadows." Advocating that the most logical solution would be to authorize retail pharmacy distribution of imported drugs, Ryan captured media attention with his blunt comments and simple proposals. He emerged as the leader and spokesman for the retail pharmacy industry.


Ryan's management style was upbeat, enthusiastic, optimistic, and outspoken. He saw a tremendous amount of potential for continued growth of the retail pharmacy industry. Ryan's goal was to make CVS into the preeminent global health-care retailer. Ryan worked to create an environment that emphasized the importance of individual people, praise and rewards for employees, and support for individual initiatives. He achieved an entrepreneurial environment that helped CVS grow from a regional chain into a national presence in the world of retail pharmacies. Of his overall strategy for leading CVS into the future, Ryan told David Pinto of Mass Market Retailer, "Any road will take you somewhere. I had to learn which was the right road for us. Even then, it's one thing to know, another to make it happen. Strategy tells you where you're going, execution gets results."


Over the course of his career, Ryan was associated with a number of professional and civic organizations. He was vice chairman of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and a member of the boards of directors of Melville Corporation, Bank of America, Citizens Bank of Rhode Island, Fleet-Boston Financial Corporation, Reebok International, Yum! Brands, Ryanair Holdings, TriCon Global Restaurants, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, and the Trinity Repertory Company. He was a member of the Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council and a trustee of the University of Rhode Island and the Brown University School of Medicine.

Ryan created the CVS Charity Golf Classic, which contributed millions of dollars to charities. He made substantial personal donations to educational institutions, particularly the University of Rhode Island. He maintained a vital interest in leading-edge technology in the field of pharmaceuticals. "I believe community pharmacy can play an expanded role in improving the quality and delivery of health care in this country," Ryan said when he provided financial support for the creation of an endowed professorship in community pharmacy. In addition to personal gifts, Ryan funded scholarships and grants for University of Rhode Island students and faculty through the CVS corporate giving program.

See also entry on CVS Corporation in International Directory of Company Histories.

sources for further information

"Gift from CVS Chief Enables URI to Establish Second Endowed Chair in Pharmacy," October 27, 1998, http://www.uri.edu/news/releases/html/98-1027-01.htm.

Lisanti, Tony, "CVS' Ryan Offers Viable Solutions to Importation," Drug Store News, May 17, 2004, p. 16.

Pinto, David, "CVS' Ryan is MMR Retailer of the Year," Mass Market Retailer, January 12, 2004, p. 12.

"Ryan Discusses 'Pharmacy in the New Millennium,'" Chain Drug Review, April 27, 1998, p. 272.

"Ryan Looks Ahead, Finds Good Reason for Optimism," Mass Market Retailer, January 12, 2004, p. 16.

"Ryan to Lead CVS to Greater Heights," Mass Market Retailer, June 26, 2000, p. 165.

Walden, Geoff, "Ryan Throws Down Gauntlet on Drug Importation," Chain Drug Review, May 24, 2004, p. 34.

Peggy K. Daniels