Rochelle Henderson’s numbers change patients’ lives


(Photo by August Jennewein)

There is an energy about Rochelle Henderson, senior director of health services at Express Scripts in St. Louis. She wants to change the world, or at least her corner of it, by better understanding human behavior in relation to prescription medication. She finds her answers in numbers.

“So we have this great amount of uncertainty about the world,” says Henderson, who earned a doctorate in political science from the University of Missouri– St. Louis in 2010. “And what statistics allows you to do is, not reduce totally, but minimize that level of uncertainty.”

For Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager, Henderson and her team collect data on prescription use, analyze results and help minimize “waste” for pharmacies.

“We’re about the right medication, for the right person, at the right price,” she says.

The job allows her to combine her passion for statistics with her love of health science. Henderson found that same combination in her doctoral program at UMSL.

“The political science program let me craft and focus my courses,” she says. “I was interested in quantitative analysis, but I also took survey classes in the College of Education and gerontology classes that were offered on aging and healthcare. So I was able to cross disciplines to achieve my goal of the PhD.”

Initially, convenience drew Henderson to UMSL. Working at Express Scripts didn’t allow her much time, and the Fortune 500 company was already located on UMSL’s North Campus. After getting to know the faculty, she also appreciated their initiatives and strong reputations within their disciplines.

Now she takes what she learned at UMSL and applies it daily at Express Scripts. Henderson is proud of the lab she works in, which divides into three sections: data, behavior and psychology, and clinical specialists. They get to work with some nifty gadgetry, too. In a sleek, modern brainstorming area with a giant touch screen, Henderson explains a pilot test being done with asthma inhalers.

“They are linked up to a cellphone app,” she says, “so that you can monitor number of puffs, at what time of day and the events that are going on in terms of things like ragweed and mold counts. On a nightly basis, it sends that information to our clinical specialists.”

When a clinical specialist notices that a patient uses the rescue inhaler more often than recommended or prescribed, the specialist has been trained to reach out to the patient personally and offer guidance.

Henderson notes that medication non-adherence is one of the main factors leading to waste, even in cases like cancer, where one might think taking medication as prescribed is a given. “What we do really matters,” she says. “We really impact the patient.”

Besides her role at Express Scripts, Henderson also teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, helps on research teams for Barnes- Jewish Hospital and the Veterans Affairs Hospital of St. Louis, and volunteers for St. Louis–Samara Sister Cities as a healthcare tour guide for visiting Russian physicians. It’s a lot to fit into one schedule, but it’s absolutely her passion.

“If you love what you do, you find the time.”

This story was originally published in the spring 2015 issue of UMSL Magazine.

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