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Bellwether League, Inc.Hall of Fame for Healthcare Supply Chain Leadership remembers Brien Laing, Bellwether Class of 2009

SCHAUMBURG, IL (January 19, 2015) – Reputable management executives talk about the need to walk around the corporate campus, including the customer service and shared service areas, to recognize, encourage and motivate those representing the brand name to the outside world.

Brien Laing consistently walked that talk throughout his storied career.

Laing, Bellwether Class of 2009, died Sunday, January 4, after a long illness. He was 88. His wife of 41 years Lois and family were at his side at the Warner Center for Caring at Baptist Medical Center, Fernandina Beach, FL.

Laing served in the healthcare industry for 41 years before retiring in 1988 to Amelia Island, FL. His extensive career progressed from sales representative to sales executive to distribution executive, primarily for American Hospital Supply Corp. He also served as a senior executive for Baxter Healthcare Corp. after Baxter acquired American Hospital Supply and later as a senior executive and corporate adviser for Span-America Medical Systems Inc. during his retirement.

Yet to Laing, retirement didn’t translate into idleness or recreation and rest. In addition to advising Span-America, Laing returned to college, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Jacksonville University, a Master’s Degree from the University of North Florida and a Ph.D. from the Union Institute in Cincinnati with a strong emphasis on African-American History.

Robert “Bud” Bowen, Bellwether Class of 2014, and Bellwether League Inc. Founding Secretary, called Laing “a true Bellwether.”

Vance Moore, Bellwether League Board Member and Senior Vice President of Operations at Mercy, worked at Baxter prior to his hospital experience. “He was a good man that did great things,” he said. “Early in my career, I actually worked in the ‘Brien Laing’ building in McGaw Park.”

“Brien served as a mentor to so many people – both directly and indirectly – throughout the healthcare supply chain industry,” said Rick Dana Barlow, Bellwether League Inc. Co-Founder and Executive Director. “His example and influence permeated the mindsets of suppliers and providers alike. To the Bellwether League Inc. Board of Directors that inducted him in 2009, Laing quite clearly and simply epitomized an industry Bellwether.”

“He told me privately in the summer of 2009 how much he would have loved to accept his award in person but that he could not travel. He and I kept in touch periodically during the last few years. He would commend BLI for the professionals it honored every year.”

Brien’s wife Lois Laing was his greatest fan and supporter.

“I am tremendously proud of Brien as a husband, father, businessman and friend to many,” she said. “He never took the credit I feel he deserved.” Bellwether League recognized him for the kind of person he was, she added.

Tom Pirelli, Bellwether Class of 2008, was an ardent champion of Laing and counted him as a primary mentor and friend.

“When I started Enterprise Systems I modeled the company after how Brien ran AHS,” Pirelli recounted. “Brien was a great leader, but he did not take himself so seriously that he could not appreciate a good joke. After an AHS trip to Saudi Arabia, I went into his office dressed as an Arab sheik in full costume, fake beard and all. I had him fooled for about five minutes, and then he burst into laughter when he realized it was me back from Saudi.

“Brien was the first and only boss I ever had who held monthly employee meetings to inform the group about every little detail of the business,” Pirelli continued. “He was a gracious host to all visitors to AHS. Brien was the one who encouraged me to devise a system that would make it easier for AHS customers to place orders. The result was the Apple II system that later became the basis for the ADAMM system and Enterprise Systems. I will always fondly remember Brien Laing.”

Jamie Kowalski, Bellwether League Co-Founder and Founding Chairman, recalled Laing’s influence on him, too, and expressed sadness at his passing.

“I first met Brien fairly early in my career,” Kowalski noted. “As a young Supply Chain leader at a hospital, I too frequently rushed to action that resulted in mistakes. When I made one that affected Brien and his team, he called me on it in a way that made me see he was right. I apologized to him directly, and he graciously accepted. I learned from that experience; how to act (as Brien demonstrated, by both calling me out and by accepting my apology), and how not to act (as the younger ‘me’ did). I’ll always remember and appreciate what Brien taught me.”

Jim Hersma, Bellwether Class of 2012, classified Laing as a “once-in-a-lifetime-leader.

“Brien’s passing feels like the end of an era where a memory was created by a man that represented so many virtues – the same virtues that an admired grandfather would pass onto his family and to all those that he touched,” Hersma said. “Brien’s legacy may best be defined by the success that his AHSC ‘family’ achieved – in no small part a direct result of his leadership. He chose to have such traits as humility, trust, humor, as well as high standards, and then have those cascade to others via his deeds.

“It was 1978 when I served as [AHSC’s] product manager for ASAP/Materials Management,” he continued. “What a great time to support Brien’s vision of serving the customer well beyond products sold. It was a thrill to receive a handwritten note from him with ‘B’ as his signature. He was in many respects the father that I missed having – a father that impacted me and many others in their business and personal lives. The pride of being a small part of his team and legacy is significant.”

Dan Dryan, Bellwether Class of 2011, remembered Laing in his competitive mode.

At one point during his hospital supply chain career Dryan managed an off-site warehouse for his organization that inspired numerous suppliers to solicit his business. They would pitch him on the merits of closing the warehouse and switching to just-in-time deliveries. Dryan consistently responded to “give me what I ordered on the day you said you would deliver it at the price you said you were going to charge.”

Dryan quipped that he kept the warehouse open. Then Laing called on him.

“I told him the same thing,” Dryan remembered, “and he did it. Then I said I wanted the boxes on the skids to be facing out so I could check them without unloading the skid and he did it. Then I said I wanted the contents on the skid to be loaded in the same order as the packing slip and he did it. There was nothing I requested from him that I did not get exactly as I wanted it.

“He was a professional, kind, caring man and a good friend.”

Laing was born in Wilmette, IL, raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as well as the United States Navy. He graduated from McGill University in Montreal where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry, before embarking on his healthcare career.

Laing is survived by his wife Lois, three daughters, two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, a niece, great-niece, two great-nephews and eight great-grand nieces and nephews, as well as a multitude of beloved friends and colleagues and peers he considered part of a greater extended family.

The Laing family held a memorial service on Monday, January 19, at 11 a.m. at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church. The Laing family requested that memorial contributions may be made to Holy Trinity Anglican Church of Fernandina Beach, 1830 Lake Park Dr., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034 or to the Warner Center for Caring, c/o Baptist Medical Center – Nassau, 1250 S. 18th Street, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034. The Laing family further asked to please share his Life Legacy and leave your memories and condolences at See more at:

Executive Director’s Note: Bellwether League Inc. extended an invitation to a social media group of thousands of former AHS, Baxter and Cardinal Health alumni who knew him to share some of their personal and professional anecdotes and memories. A compilation will be posted on Bellwether League Inc.’s Web site.

About Bellwether League Inc.

Bellwether League Inc.’s Board of Directors selects deceased, retired and currently active professionals with a minimum of 25 years of exemplary service and leadership performance in supply chain operations that meet its criteria to be publicly recognized. Honorees demonstrate their qualifications by advancing the profession through work experience and performance and active participation in professional organizations and their communities.

To date, Bellwether League Inc., has identified and honored 72 innovators, leaders and pioneers in healthcare supply chain management in five distinct categories: Education & Media, Supply Chain Management, Group Purchasing, Supplier and Consulting Services.

Launched in late July 2007 by a group of influential veterans in the healthcare supply chain industry, Bellwether League Inc., is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit corporation that identifies and honors men and women who have demonstrated significant leadership in, influence on and contributions to the supply chain from healthcare providers, healthcare product manufacturers and distributors, group purchasing organizations, consulting firms, educational institutions and media outlets.

Bellwether League Inc. is funded by five Founding and Platinum Sponsors – Halyard Health (formerly Kimberly-Clark Health Care), McKesson, MedAssets, Owens & Minor and Premier Purchasing Partners – and a host of additional sponsors, highlighted on Bellwether League Inc.’s Web site.

The Board of Directors of Bellwether League Inc. includes a veteran group of industry advocates:

  • John B. Gaida (chairman), senior vice president, supply chain management, Texas Health Resources, Arlington, TX
  • Patrick E. Carroll Jr. (secretary), president, Patrick E. Carroll & Associates, Cypress, CA
  • Mary A. Starr, (treasurer) regional vice president, University HealthSystem Consortium, Chicago
  • Rick Dana Barlow (co-founder, executive director), president, Wingfoot Media Inc., Schaumburg, IL
  • James R. Francis, chair, supply chain management, and chief supply chain officer, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
  • Jamie C. Kowalski (co-founder, founding chairman 2007-2013), CEO, Jamie C. Kowalski Consulting LLC, Milwaukee, WI
  • Michael Louviere, system vice president, supply chain, Ochsner Health System, New Orleans
  • Vance B. Moore, senior vice president, operations, Mercy, Chesterfield, MO
  • Jean M. Sargent, CMRP, FAHRMM, CRCST, director, advisory solutions, MedAssets, Los Angeles
  • John W. Strong, principal, John Strong LLC, Fontana, WI
  • Mark A. Van Sumeren, strategic adviser, medical devices and integrated delivery networks , Health Industry Advisor LLC, Richmond, VA

For more information, to become a sustaining, corporate or individual sponsor or to nominate honoree candidates visit Bellwether League Inc.’s Web site at


John B. Gaida
Senior Vice President
Supply Chain Management
Texas Health Resources

Patrick E. Carroll Jr.
Patrick E. Carroll & Associates

Mary A. Starr
Regional Vice President
University HealthSystem Consortium

Executive Director
Rick Dana Barlow
Wingfoot Media Inc.


James R. Francis
Chair, Supply Chain Management
Mayo Clinic

Jamie C. Kowalski
Jamie C. Kowalski Consulting LLC

Michael Louviere
System Vice President, Supply Chain
Ochsner Health System

Vance B. Moore
Senior Vice President, Operations

Jean M. Sargent
Director, Advisory Solutions

John W. Strong
John Strong LLC

Mark A. Van Sumeren
Strategic Advisor, Medical Devices & Integrated Delivery Networks
Health Industry Advisor LLC


Jamie C. Kowalski
Rick Dana Barlow

Founding Sponsors:

Halyard Health
Med Assets
Owens & Minor
Premier Purchasing Partners

Platinum Sponsor


Bellwether League Inc. (BLI) is a non-stock, not-for-profit Illinois corporation, tax exempt under IRS Code Section 501(c)(6). BLI donations and sponsorships are not deductible as a charitable contribution for income tax purposes, but may be deductible as a business expense.