After a 40-year career spanning research, retail pharmacy, health care informatics and eventually the pharmacy benefit management space, Phil Walls R.Ph., will be retiring from the industry and his role of myMatrixx Chief Clinical Officer on October 15, 2023. Phil has been foundational to myMatrixx from the very beginning, joining as the company’s 12th employee all the way back in 2006.
Over the past 17 years, Phil has distinguished himself time and again as an advocate for injured workers, an educator for clinical and insurance professionals and a leader in evidence-based, data-driven clinical management for workers’ compensation. In addition to his work as a clinical executive with myMatrixx, Phil is a published author and has been a regular speaker on the national stage. These and other contributions have led to multiple honors and awards, including being named CompPharma’s 2015 Person of the Year and receiving the Dorland Health People Pharmacist Award.
myMatrixx wants to take this opportunity to thank Phil for his years of service to and leadership of this organization, and guiding it to where it is today. We also want to highlight his truly remarkable career and his role as an educator, both of which have made a lasting impact on myMatrixx and workers’ compensation pharmacy as a whole. Above all, we wish him the best of luck in this next phase of his life and congratulations on a well-deserved retirement.
From research and retail pharmacy to the early days of PBMs
Phil was attracted to a career in pharmacy through a love of biology, chemistry and mathematics; and completed his undergraduate studies at Mercer University – the only pharmacy program in his native Atlanta. During this time he also largely funded his education with an internship at the Veterans Administration Hospital. “At the time, it was a very practical decision, and I was able to live at home and pay my tuition each semester. I've talked to many students since then and repeatedly hear that is now all but impossible, which is unfortunate.”
His first job out of pharmacy school was in the emerging field of nuclear pharmacy, preparing radioisotopes for an Atlanta-based company. After attending graduate school for pharmacology and becoming a PhD candidate at Ohio State University, Phil made an active decision to reenter the workforce with his previous employer, Nuclear Pharmacy Incorporated. He ultimately ended up in Tampa, where he met his wife of 40-plus years.
For a time, Phil transitioned into retail pharmacy, where he received hands-on experience in this important side of the field. He also gained an appreciation for the role that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) would eventually play, working in pharmacies during a time when pharmacists would have to manage and administrate insurance payments themselves, and the notion of a PBM was just entering the picture. “I really got to see what the PBMs could do, the benefits and the limitations. I was able to see the whole evolution going from dial up systems to online systems, and really learned a lot.”
He would eventually enter the field himself, accepting a pharmacy manager position with Cigna Health Care Florida before eventually joining PMSI as a mail order pharmacy manager. “That was when I was first introduced to workers compensation. It was a very unique environment, but one that I very quickly learned and grew to appreciate.”
Phil soon grew in his role to vice president, expanding into operational and clinical leadership. “It was during my time with PMSI that I met a man named Steve McDonald. Steve was responsible for all the non-clinical ancillary services, while I was running the pharmacy side.” During their time working together, they collaborated on an innovative internet business plan that was ultimately not implemented by leadership. “Steve left the company and took his expertise and ideas to start myMatrixx as a dedicated pharmacy management solution for workers’ compensation.”
Joining myMatrixx on the ground floor
It was when Phil reconnected with Steve several years later that he would officially join myMatrixx as the 12th employee. Although there were risks and challenges in joining a small and fledgling organization, Phil emphasizes how important stepping out of his comfort zone and taking on harder and sometimes less glamorous tasks were to growing the company and his career. In the early days, he found himself doing everything from cleaning the bathrooms to writing the schedule to signing the checks. “For anyone looking to grow and do more, I would recommend volunteering for the tough jobs.”
During his more than a decade-and-a-half with myMatrixx, what Phil is most proud of, and what he will miss the most, is the ability to fulfill the role of pharmaceutical educator and injured patient advocate. “I have always believed that pharmacists should be more involved in clinical decisions for patients, and saw a future where pharmacists were spending less time putting pills in bottles and taking more time doing work such as drug consultations or working with prescribers on drug selection and drug therapy. And that's exactly what I love about where we have ended up at myMatrixx.”
Defining myMatrixx through education and exceptional customer service
From being acquired by Express Scripts to eventually joining the larger Cigna and Evernorth organizations, Phil has played a pivotal role in guiding myMatrixx through these transitions while keeping core values intact, including education, advocacy and a signature approach to unbelievably great customer service. “When Express Scripts bought myMatrixx, they liked what we were doing, and they wanted to keep us whole because the brand and level of service that we had built was important and they wanted us to maintain that identity.” He continues, “myMatrixx has always been known for service — delivering unbelievably great customer service was right there in our original mission statement. Today it’s our legacy and why we get voted number one in rankings such as the CompPharma Survey year after year.”
Phil sees his contributions as pharmacist and eventually chief clinical officer as being built on accessibility as much as anything else. “For years, I was the only pharmacist at this company. So when a customer had a pharmacy question, it would come to me, and we always respond to our customers as fast as possible.”
As myMatrixx has grown, the commitment to service and education has grown with it. From continuing education classes for insurance professionals to thought leadership publications to speaking at industry conferences, Phil Walls has been front and center.
“At one point my goal was to become a professor, and although I’ve made different career choices for reasons I’m extremely satisfied with, I’m so glad and thankful for the opportunities I’ve had at myMatrixx to fulfill that role as an educator and thinker.”