A legacy of leadership

Chris Bent and Mary Olson Cornils Baich

Growing up in California, Christine (Chris) Bent had a clear model for community service in both of her parents. When Bent was 12, her mother returned to work as a nurse in a chemical dependency and mental health unit. The family moved to Minnesota when Bent’s father, a Lutheran pastor, was called to a church in Minneapolis.

Once in Minnesota, Bent’s mother, Mary Olson Cornils Baich, decided to leave nursing and enter the School of Public Health’s Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) program as a full-time student—seeking opportunities to move her career from direct service to healthcare leadership. Bent recalls that her mother was the oldest student in her class, and one of the only non-traditional students.

Baich graduated in 1991 and joined Fairview Health Services as an administrative fellow. She developed a church and community health program for all of the hospitals in the system, a cutting-edge idea at the time. She also broadened the health system focus from traditional rescue care within a hospital’s four walls to fostering partnerships and creating healthy communities (ultimately decreasing the need for hospital care).

During this time, Bent was finishing her undergraduate degree at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. Bent entered the MHA program the year after her mother graduated.

Like mother, like daughter

Baich went on to lead the Fairview Foundation and then became president of Vesper Society, an organization that serves the most vulnerable by nurturing nonprofits across the world. She was remembered as a humble, effective leader.

Bent has grown into an exceptional healthcare leader in her own right. “To get into the MHA program, I had to say that I wanted to be a hospital president,” she says. “That sounded as good as anything at the time.”

She currently is the chief operating officer and senior vice president for Prime Therapeutics, responsible for the organization’s day-to-day pharmacy benefit management operations planning and delivery.

Baich modeled effective, compassionate leadership for her daughter, and was a champion and mentor for other women in healthcare.

“She showed us that you can be kind and effective in what you do, and encouraged me to always say yes to helping others and supporting them as they grow in their careers,” says Bent.

Bent currently volunteers as president of the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST, where she is able to coach, mentor, and champion women in healthcare, just as her mother did during her own career. She is also a perennial volunteer with the MHA program, where she coaches students as they learn the problem solving method.In addition to her demanding professional life and robust volunteer roles, Bent is a wife and mom, and was a caregiver to her mother, who died from Parkinson’s disease in 2020.

Bent’s commitment to her family, work, community, and the people she serves is a living testament to the lessons her mother taught her and the effectiveness of the tools she gained in the MHA program. “At the end of the day, it’s each individual’s right to have the best access, the best programs, and the best services so that they can lead the life that they want to live.”