Forbes’ infamous list of the world’s billionaires is back again, growing this year to a record 1,645 ultra-wealthy individuals. Billionaires in the healthcare world tend to be pharma giants -- and men. But they don’t hold the monopoly: From the Midwestern self-starter who survived a terrifying kidnapping attempt, to the media-shy entrepreneur whose company will soon be responsible for safeguarding 50% of all Americans’ medical records, women have some of the most exciting narratives in the industry. Healthcare Dive takes a look at the five wealthiest (and most interesting) women in healthcare.
#240 Gayle Cook
Net worth: $5.8 Billion
If ever a billionaire lived the American dream, it was Gayle and husband Bill Cook. Cook Group is a medical device giant with estimated revenues of $2 billion now, but in 1963, Gayle and Bill were building wire guides, needles and catheters out of their spare bedroom in an apartment in Bloomington, Indiana. Now the company sells stents and catheters that contain pre-injected antibiotics and has offices in Europe, Asia and Australia.
Adding to the blockbuster-quality of Cook’s life, she survived a kidnapping in the late 1980’s. Arthur Curry, a Chicago investment broker who had fallen into ruin, stole a car and drove to the Cook’s Monroe County home with a reckless plan in mind. He duct-taped Gayle Cook’s hands, legs, mouth and eyes, then demanded a $1.2 million cash and $500,000 gold ransom. The FBI apprehended Curry within a day, when he arranged for delivery of the ransom money. Not surprisingly, the company has been very private since the event -- Gayle’s husband famously blamed the kidnapping on his inclusion in Forbes’ 400 Richest Americans list.
#466 Ronda Stryker
Net worth: $3.4 Billion
Of all the heirs to Homer Stryker's medical device fortune, Ronda Stryker is wealthiest. The family heiress has been in the news lately for the $100 million secret donation she made three years ago to Western Michigan University to create a new medical school. She went public last week, fessing up to the gift that she has long been suspected of making. The completed school will be named, unsurprisingly, the Homer Stryker School of Medicine, in honor of Stryker’s grandfather, inventor of the mobile hospital bed. Ronda Stryker is a director of the medical device maker Stryker Corp. and owns approximately 8% of the company.
#520 Judy Faulkner
Net worth: $3.1 Billion
Forbes named Faulkner the “Most Powerful Woman” in healthcare last year, and with good reason. The self-made chief executive founded Epic Systems in 1979, and the healthcare software company has become a brobdingnagian since. Almost half of the U.S. population will have its medical records stored in Epic’s databases once hospitals have finished installation. Clients of the company include industry heavyweights Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins and Stanford, and in February, CVS Caremark contracted with Epic to provide an EHR system for its MinuteClinic division. The deal will take Epic’s ambulatory-care footprint across 800 healthcare clinics in 28 states and as many as 1,500 locations.
Faulkner is one of few self-made women on the Forbes list; not only that, she’s a programmer who majored in math in undergrad. Compared to the CEOs of other major EHR companies -- she has her own acronym, CHEESI, to remember them all -- Faulkner maintains it isn’t her gender that makes her stand out: “Visually, I’m the one woman, but I’m the only one with a technical background. That’s the main difference.”
#731 Maja Oeri
Net worth: $2.4 Billion
Maja Oeri became a billionaire in her own right -- and caused some waves -- in 2011 when she pulled her 8 million shares out of the family pool of Swiss pharma behemoth Roche (Oeri is a descendant of founder Fritz Hoffman La-Roch). Although Oeri claimed at the time that her departure was on good terms, her portion accounted for 5% of the family pool and caused the family to lose its majority control of the maker of Tamiflu and Valium. At the time, there was some speculation that the move was designed to fragment the family’s influence over the company and make room for a take-over, but although Oeri’s operational involvement is limited, she insists that she is committed to the family's management of the company.
#931 Dulce Pugliese de Godoy Bueno
Net worth: $1.9 Billion
Dulce Pugliese de Godoy Bueno met her former husband, Edson de Godoy Bueno, at medical school, and in 1972 the power couple co-founded the company that over the last 40 years has made their fortune. Amil Participacoes began with the acquisition of a few medical clinics in Brazil and grew into a successful publicly-traded health insurer and hospital operator. Like Faulkner, de Godoy Bueno is highly educated -- she received a PhD in management from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin -- and served as an assistant professor in the pediatrics department at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, where she also served as academic dean of the undergraduate program.