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How a serious ski accident led Aetna’s CEO to yoga and meditation

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aetna ceo mark bertolini
Aetna
chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini speaks during the Fortune Global
Forum on November 3, 2015

Justin
Sullivan/Getty Images


  • In a recent
    New York Times interview
    , Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini looks
    back at his ski accident and his upbringing.
  • He examines how this journey he’s been through led him to
    Aetna, and how he wants to change the company for the
    better. 
  • He wants to start by improving his employees’ quality of life
    by raising wages, adding benefits, and introducing yoga and
    meditation classes in the company. 

Health giant Aetna’s current CEO, Mark Bertolini, nearly died in
a serious ski accident shortly after joining the company back in
2004. 

None of the conventional Western medicine helped him get back on
his feet. Neither did the seven different narcotics he was on. So
he tried out Eastern therapies like craniosacral therapy, yoga,
and meditation. His health progressed and he was back at work.
And by 2010, he became CEO of the nation’s third largest
insurer. 

As CEO, he ran things around Aetna differently — offering yoga
and meditation classes, raising the minimum wage, improving
benefit, and
merging with CVS
are just some of the changes that have
caught the public eye. In
an interview with the New York Times
, Bertolini dives into
his childhood and his near-death experience that gave him a new
outlook on life and on the workings of a successful
company. 

Bertolini grew up in a Catholic, working-class family in Detroit,
and started working in his dad’s auto-shop at the age of 13. He
went Wayne State University in 1974. At college, he tried to do
everything — working, partying, studying — and found that
lifestyle unsustainable. 

In the end, it took him eight years to get through college and he
ended with a 1.79 GPA. 

Because of his photographic memory, he did well on the GMATs and
was accepted to business school at Cornell. He then worked in
several small healthcare companies in Detroit, and he ran a tight
ship. Oftentimes, his employees would hum the Darth Vader tune
when he walked around the office. 

After his accident and his long and unconventional road to
recovery, Bertolini started looking at things differently. He
stopped going to church and started reading up on Hinduism
literature. He wanted to make things in the company better. He
wanted to improve the quality of life of his employees.

The changes he made he didn’t do to appease shareholders, he
said. And as the company’s merger with CVS comes to a close, he’s
ensuring that he’s doing all he can to keep the changes he made
(the benefits and the wage increase) intact.  

See also:


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