Alumnus ahead of the times

BCBSNE president and CEO Steven S. Martin and Washburn president Jerry Farley.

BCBSNE president and CEO Steven S. Martin and President Jerry Farley.

That Steve Martin is in the process of ground-breaking work as president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

This is, after all, a man who worked toward a nursing degree at a time — the 1970s — when the field consisted almost entirely of women. He’s comfortable chartering unfamiliar territory.

Martin, the guest speaker at Thursday’s Wake Up with Washburn breakfast lecture series, put his degree, a bachelor of science in nursing, to use immediately after college, climbing the ranks in the health care industry.

Martin had the foresight to found Prime Therapeutics, a “comprehensive pharmacy benefits solutions company owned by eight independent Blue Cross Blue Shield plans that integrate pharmacy claim processing, drug manufacturer contracting, drug utilization analysis, clinical programs and consulting services into Blue Cross Blue Shield plans and other regionally oriented health plans, HMOs, and specialty pharmacy benefit organizations,” according to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska’s website.

Prime Therapeutics is the largest privately owned pharmacy benefit management administrator in the country.

As the CEO of BCBSNE, Martin is one of the leaders of a company studying and preparing innovative models during a time of health care reform.

Martin discussed his work during Thursday’s presentation, which he titled “New Health Care Business Models and Opportunities Arising from Health Care Reform.”

You can read more about Martin’s visit on the Alumni Association’s website.

In the magazine: Looking ahead to August

Washburn alumnus Shane McCall, left, and his son, Marshall, are featured in Joe Drape’s “Our Boys.” Shane played football at Washburn, once covering NFL great Jerry Rice.

I called Roger Barta right at 8 a.m. in late May. I figured if anybody is up that early, it’s a high school football coach on a Friday, even in the middle of the summer.

Barta did take the call, politely answering my questions about the book that has made the longtime coach a celebrity. Unfortunately, I’d yet to reach the chapter in “Our Boys” that detailed many of his habits, including occasionally sleeping in now that he’s retired from teaching. Oops.

Maybe it helped that I’ve known Barta since my days at the Topeka Capital-Journal, dating back to a 2006 story on dream matchups in high school football. We figured his Smith Center team, a small-school powerhouse, should play his son Brooks’ Holton squad, a bigger school and an emerging juggernaut.

As he did then, Roger obliged the interview, providing several details (something he’s probably done thousands of times since Joe Drape’s book was published in 2009) for my story on iRead, Washburn’s community reading program.

That story is one of the features in the August 2012 edition of The Ichabod alumni magazine. Drape, a Kansas City, Mo., native and sports writer at The New York Times, will be on campus on Sept. 18. That day includes a discussion in the evening, one we’d like alumni to participate in.

That Drape is traveling to Washburn in the midst of a hectic schedule is quite a coup for the university. There’s also a good chance Roger Barta, now a legend with eight state championships under his belt, will make the trip from Smith Center to Topeka for the event.

IRead is a great program for the Washburn community, serving as an avenue for our students to connect with each other and the folks in Topeka, including alumni. That we’re reading a book about Kansas high school football and a town similar to those many of us grew up in makes it that much more intriguing.

For more information on iRead, visit the website or shoot me an email. To purchase the book at a discount, visit the Washburn Bookstore.

Don’t forget to check this blog in the coming weeks for more details on the August issue.