January 23, 2009

Team Player

Terrence Byrd ’74 thrives in providing access to quality health care

Nearly 50 million people in the United States lack health insurance or access to proper medical care. Ask Terrence Byrd ’74; he knows. The same intensity he brought to the gridiron as a wideout at Lafayette he summons daily on behalf of the needy—and not so needy—who desire nothing more than to see the right doctor when they need one.

  • The McDonogh Report celebrates the contributions of African Americans to the Lafayette community.

Byrd’s 30 years in the health care and insurance industries make him the go-to guy for situations that call for fast thinking and a clear eye toward the goal. As founder and principal of TLB BYRD and Associates, he teams up with new managed health care organizations during their startups, tackling state and federal licensing requirements and coaching his side in everything from developing a network of care providers to building effective management teams.

“I was the leading receiver my junior and senior year,” he says of his days on Lafayette’s Division I football team. “If we needed a first down, I felt that I had the ability to get open. If the ball came near me, I was going to catch it. That drive to succeed carried through in my career.”

In a previous job, Byrd’s ability to generate new business for Total Plan Administrators Inc., a subsidiary company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey, inspired confidence in his superiors to ask him to start a joint venture. As president of Mercy Health Plan, he set up a managed Medicaid plan that is now the largest in New Jersey, with over 350,000 members. He also worked up a plan with partners in Pennsylvania to meet the needs of Medicaid recipients in New Jersey lacking health coverage. Through his efforts, New Jersey provides medical coverage for more then 700,000 Medicaid beneficiaries and uninsureds while improving overall quality of care and eliminating waste.

Currently his problem-solving acumen is helping Pinnacle Partners in Medicine, a Texas-based anesthesiology practice management organization, transition its business model to the Mid-Atlantic region. Byrd has assisted company leaders from both regions and made Pinnacle’s expansion a success as it purchased a 200-provider anesthesiology group practice in the Philadelphia area. His most recent work with this group resulted in the signing of an exclusive anesthesiology provider agreement with Easton (Pa.) Hospital.

His education and social interactions at Lafayette helped prepare Byrd for such accomplishments.

“Even though I was in an environment with fewer than 100 African-American students, it really was a microcosm of society,” he recalls. “You had two races coming together at a time in our history when there was a lot of unrest, yet it was a learning and growing experience, not only for the black students, but also for the white students.”

Byrd relied on the team spirit and sense of community he found playing football and the opportunities the intimate setting of the Lafayette campus provided.

“I met people from a number of different socio-economic backgrounds at Lafayette,” he recalls, “yet we became one. Our environment developed us as black students. We all became more aware of our identity. At the same time, we interacted with the white population on campus, which prepared us for the business world.”

To help others succeed as well, Byrd volunteers as president of United Families of African Descent, an organization committed to the social, economic, educational, and cultural empowerment of black families in his county.

“It’s important for the children and the community to understand their history,” he says. “You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.”

Athletics still matter to Byrd, though he’s more likely to be found on the basketball court coaching others than making a one-handed grab in the end zone. One of his former youth basketball players is J.R. Smith of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. Smith repaid his former coach’s dedication by asking Byrd to sit on the board of directors for the J.R. Smith Foundation, which assists youth through community programs, including educational initiatives and basketball and golf tournaments.

Though his wife, Lanette Rozier ’75, served as a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention that emphasized political change, Byrd is sticking to his own game plan for making a difference. As he says, “I would like to continue to evolve with health care, to make a change in the health care delivery system and make health care affordable and accessible for all Americans, regardless of race or ability to pay.”

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