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You know You Were Lucky If Saying Goodbye is Hard

Rice Powell looks back on his time at Fresenius Medical Care and explains why being the CEO has been one of the greatest joys of his life.

It still feels unreal: After 25 years, 10 of them as CEO, I am entering the final stretch of my time at Fresenius Medical Care. Both of my daughters were born during this time and already my eldest is getting married and my youngest is graduating from college. As this chapter of my life closes, I am proud to see both the company and my daughters grown up and standing on their own two feet as they embark on their next adventures.

I joined Fresenius Medical Care in 1997, just one year after its founding. It was the company's ambition that inspired me: About 10 percent of the global population suffers from kidney disease, and we set out to help these patients.

And we did. Fresenius Medical Care dramatically increased dialysis access, the treatment replacing the function of failing kidneys. Early dialysis clinics were few and far between, and the procedure often took a long time, leaving people exhausted. Today, we treat six times as many patients as when I started – 56,000 then and 346,000 now – and offer our products and services in more than 150 countries. Our patients are treated at nearby dialysis centers, at home during the day, or while they sleep, and treatment is less stressful than it was at the beginning. A growing number of our patients are enrolled in value-based care programs, which gives us a natural incentive to keep improving our clinical performance. Thus, we play a crucial role in taking a once fatal condition and turning it into an increasingly manageable illness. That progress is still ongoing, and I believe it deserves a place among the great achievements of modern medicine.

I cannot take credit here. That honor should go to many others: The masterminds who develop and improve our therapies and products; the nurses and healthcare professionals who care for our patients; the partners who support us; and the teams in our offices and along our supply chains who keep it all running. And let us not forget about those at the center of it all – the patients and their families. Their zest for life provides the energy that keeps this vast and intricate machinery going.

To serve as your CEO has been one of the greatest joys of my life. It was always important for me to listen, and trust what you had to say. In my experience, it is rarely a single person, one brilliant strategy, or an ingenious invention that drives progress. It is the wisdom of a crowd that mysteriously decides to unite behind a common purpose and becomes a kind of super organization far more powerful than the sum of its parts.

Leaving this organization is difficult. I will miss you all.

I know things are not exactly “smooth sailing” at the moment. Like many other companies, Fresenius Medical Care is suffering from (post-)pandemic stress: cost inflation, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages. The past three years have taught us that the world does not always work according to our plans. But looking back, I would say that this company is on track. Our business model and growth drivers are intact, and our competent crews will handle these and other temporary challenges.

But someone else gets to steer this amazing company. I look forward to spending time with my wife and daughters, hanging out with my dogs, and being out on the river during fly-fishing season. I have even considered picking up on my childhood dream of coaching a football team and becoming the next Bear Bryant, but – for bizarre and unexplainable reasons – the University of Alabama has still not called.

My family is also looking forward to my retirement as they have a mile-long to-do list for me now that I have more time to spare.

Together Ahead is the motto I have always loved and as I move on, I will watch from a distance as you continue to create a future worth living for our patients, worldwide, every day.