East Sider

Meet Helena Foulkes, CVS/Pharmacy President

Get an inside peek into the mind of the President of CVS/Pharmacy


In 1973, Helena (Buonanno) Foulkes and her family moved from East Greenwich to a neighborhood described then as “unsafe” with “horrible schools” - the East Side! A graduate of Henry Barnard School, Lincoln School, Harvard and Harvard Business School, Helena is President of CVS/pharmacy. Hired by CVS in 1992, she has skillfully climbed the corporate ladder to hold increasingly demanding positions. We declined to put her on the spot by asking her to identify her preferred East Side CVS.

What is your favorite aisle in CVS?
“Skin care. It’s an amazing product and represents hope and promise,” she says, laughing. “I’m looking more and more like my mom (the late Martha Buonanno).”

If you were recruiting executives to CVS to relocate to Rhode Island, which East Side street would you show them to entice them to relocate?
“Three streets, if I could,” she says. “Freeman Parkway, where I grew up; Benefit Street, for its history and beauty; and John Street at the corner of Thayer, where Bill (her husband) and I first lived. The quality of life here is unbelievable... (but) I wish our state had a greater economic force to bring in more jobs.”

Your maternal grandfather (the late Thomas Dodd) and uncle (Christopher Dodd) were United States senators; you served on the board of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. Any desire to hold political office?
“My family and my parents were involved and active; we all have a great passion for the positive role that governmental leaders can play. For the next decade, I will continue to focus on my career in the business world; I think there are lots of ways to serve.”

You’re stuck on a desert island, but with essential food and water. What three items from CVS must you have?
“A heating pad for my back, a bottle of vitamins and a Vogue magazine.”

Healthcare is changing and so is CVS, most notably with its decision to cease selling tobacco. How else will CVS look different in the next few years?
“The pharmacy will play a bigger role in health care.” The U.S. shortage by 2020 of 45,000 primary care physicians, she explains, offers opportunities for CVS’ in-store medical clinics - MinuteClinics - to play a bigger role in health care; currently, they operate in more than two-dozen states. “I hope that by the time this article comes out, Rhode Island will have said ‘okay’ to MinuteClinics.”