Tyson Foods has selected Dr. Claudia Coplein to fill the newly created role of chief medical officer for the meat giant amid its efforts to focus on safeguarding employee health and well-being amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coplein brings more than 20 years of healthcare experience to Tyson having held leadership roles in the insurance, global manufacturing, healthcare and technology fields. She has held leadership roles at MassMutual, MetLife, United Technologies and General Electric as well as serving as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force. She earned her medical degree from New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine and her law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law, as well as master’s degrees in public health from Loma Linda University, business administration from Colorado State University and environmental management from Yale University. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Baystate Health.
She previously worked as head of health and wellness and chief medical officer for MassMutual. Coplein will be based in Springdale and begin Jan. 4. She will report to executive vice president and chief human resource officer Johanna Söderström. One of her key roles will be to oversee the launch of Marathon Health clinics that will be piloted in seven of the company’s plant communities.
“At Tyson, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our team members, so I am especially excited to add Dr. Coplein to our team,” Söderström said. “Her unique perspective of the healthcare ecosystem will be a tremendous asset as we continue to build a culture of health and take additional steps to protect our team members and plant communities.”
The clinics are being piloted in Carthage/Center, Texas, Berryville, Ark., Storm Lake, Iowa, Holcomb, Kan., Lexington, Neb., Wilkesboro, N.C., and Newborn, Tenn. The clinics will provide healthcare to Tyson employees and their families at low to no cost.
Tyson said Coplein’s hiring is one of the series of steps the company is taking to fight the coronavirus that has hit so many of the communities where it operates. The company has invested $540 million to transform its U.S. facilities with protective measures to safeguard faculties and keep employees healthy.
Tyson Foods is using testing as a tool and estimates more than half of its workforce has been tested for Covid-19. The company is testing thousands of workers per week as part of its monitoring strategy. In addition to testing those with symptoms or who have been in close contact with someone who has the virus, the company is also proactively testing workers who have no symptoms. The company also hired an additional 200 nurses and administrative staff this year amid the pandemic bringing the occupational health staff to nearly 600 who provide health and wellness support for the company.
“It is an honor to be named Tyson Foods’ first chief medical officer,” said Coplein. “I look forward to contributing to Tyson’s culture of caring for its team members and discovering new and innovative ways to further build our culture of safety, health and wellness.”
The announcement also comes as Tyson is facing lawsuits from at least four families who lost family members to COVID-19 earlier this year in Iowa. Tyson has maintained it put employee safety first, but court records indicate that some plant managers did not follow the edict from the corporate office, with some even betting on how many workers would be infected with the virus. That management was suspended in mid-November pending more investigation.