‘Prescription for a Better World’: Eileen Howard Boone ’86 Leads CVS Health to Drop Tobacco Products

The alumna is a driving force behind the company's mission to help customers live healthier lives
October 5th, 2017 by 

Howard Boone at the CVS Health headquarters in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
Howard Boone at the CVS Health headquarters in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Photo by Tom Rettig

Ask Eileen Howard Boone ’86 about life at home with her husband and their blended family of six children, and she’ll tell you that motherhood is the most rewarding job she has ever had.

So it’s no surprise that when she goes into work at CVS Health in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, it’s other children – and their mothers – who are her focus.

As the senior vice president for corporate social responsibility and philanthropy and the president of the CVS Health Foundation, Howard Boone directs CVS’ efforts to build healthier communities, create economic opportunities and protect the planet – what they call their “prescription for a better world.”

“Eighty-eight percent of our customers are women, and each of these women is the chief health care officer of her family,” Howard Boone says. “When we think about our decision making and what makes the most impact, we’re thinking about her — whether it is our products, the ExtraCare program or local funding.”

This local funding includes charitable donations, fundraising and volunteering to support programs that improve access to and quality of health care for underserved populations, and also reduce the costs of health care.

Innovation and Growth

Howard Boone says that CVS Health believes it is the company’s responsibility to help people on a path to better health. She joined the company 14 years ago, when it was primarily a pharmacy retailer, and CVS Health has since grown into a pharmacy innovation company that is ranked No. 7 on the Fortune 500 list and currently operates more than 9,700 retail locations, 1,200 walk-in medical clinics, a pharmacy benefits manager, a dedicated senior pharmacy care business, specialty pharmacy services and a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

When she arrived at CVS in 2004, it was as the head of corporate communications and community relations. As the company grew, so did her desire to “leverage our size and scale to make a difference in the lives of those that need it the most.”

“Community relations was something I had always treasured about my job, and I thought we could do more and extend our impact in a much greater way,” she says. So external communications became a separate division, and Howard Boone focused on what CVS deemed social responsibility initiatives.

Capacity to Make a Difference

As a psychology major at Holy Cross, Howard Boone says she never envisioned this career path, but helping others has been ingrained in her throughout her education. She attended an all-girls Catholic high school before Holy Cross, and earned an MBA at fellow Jesuit institution Fordham University in New York City.

“I loved my time at Holy Cross and built lifelong friendships that have enriched my life immeasurably,” she says. “My time on campus also opened my eyes to our collective ability to make a difference in the world.”

At CVS Health, under Howard Boone’s leadership, that capacity to make a difference even supersedes profit.

In 2014, CVS Health stopped selling tobacco as part of their Be The First Campaign, a five-year, $50 million commitment to creating the first tobacco-free generation.

“Selling tobacco products was inconsistent with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health and with our growth strategy as a pharmacy innovation company,” Howard Boone says. “And while our decision was estimated to reduce sales by approximately $2 billion, we knew that in the long term it would help us grow. So in the end, our decision was made with both social impact and our long-term business imperatives in mind.”

In June 2016, an article in The Christian Science Monitor called Howard Boone “the embodiment of the alignment between the company’s profitmaking and philanthropic goals.”

A Personal Commitment

She says that the magnitude of the tobacco decision and its ripple effect across the pharmacy market and patients’ lives was one of the most important opportunities of her professional career. But there is another CVS Health initiative that is equally close to her heart.

They partner with the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics to offer grants to medical clinics and community health centers that offer free services to people without health care coverage. These clinics are staffed by doctors, nurse practitioners and other medical professionals who volunteer their time, and the grants help with expenses like medical supplies and keeping the lights on. For people who don’t have health care coverage, these clinics can be the only option for medical care.

“There aren’t enough of these clinics, and they are the safety net for health care in this country,” Howard Boone says. “It’s as personal and human as you can get when you meet these people who have to decide between putting gas in their car or food on the table and health care. I don’t want people to have to make that decision.”

For Howard Boone, this isn’t simply about CVS making a monetary donation. She shows up and actively participates in each of their initiatives: She traveled the country on a national listening tour for the Be The First Campaign, and meets with nonprofits and NGOs to cultivate partnerships and figure out the most effective ways CVS Health can help them.

“It’s truly not check writing – it is strategic health care investment that is making an impact in the lives of those who need it the most,” she says.

Five Questions with Eileen Howard Boone ’86

What is your favorite family activity?

“We spend a lot of time outdoors, hiking, running, you name it.”

What is CVS Health working on now that you are most excited about?

“We always have something new and exciting going on that we can be proud of, and right now we are removing chemicals of concern from our store brand. This is going to make a great deal of impact in the market – to remove potentially harmful formaldehyde and phosphates, etc. – and it’s a milestone in our journey. We want to make sure we are managing chemicals of customer concern and living up to our name of CVS Health.”

When was the last time you were back on Mount St. James?

“My 25th reunion!”

Where did you live when you were a student?

“Hanselman Hall, Alumni Hall and then off campus my senior year.”

Did you have a favorite spot on campus?

“St. Joseph Memorial Chapel. However, it was a tie between the upper chapel and the lower chapel. Often I preferred the lower chapel as it felt more intimate and peaceful.”


Written by Maura Sullivan Hill for the Fall 2017 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

About Holy Cross Magazine

Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit magazine.holycross.edu/about to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.

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Comments (1)
  1. Maureen Lindsey says:

    Great article. I love the insight….plus, it tells someone that they can get a psychology degree and still do something besides going to Grad school for psychology. I love how she is making a difference in the world

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