« I'm optimistic about our ability to really change health care. It's an opportunity for a generation to do something very different than has ever been done before. »

About Boudreaux: The former basketball star is now honcho of the nation's largest insurance company, estimated to rake in $103 billion in revenue in 2012. The company, which provides health benefits to 45 million people, has 50,000 employees. Boudreaux came to Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare in 2008 from Blue Cross and Blue Shield's Health Care Services Corp. in Chicago.

Personal file: Boudreaux earned an MBA from Columbia University. She also graduated with honors from Dartmouth College, where she was All-American in track and field and basketball. Her leadership style remains rooted in lessons she learned as an athlete: focus on discipline, execution and teamwork. Boudreaux spends her workweek at her Edina residence. Her husband and younger son, a high school sophomore, live in Lake Forest, Ill. Her oldest son is a sophomore at Dartmouth.

What's big in 2013: UnitedHealthcare is gearing up for major federal reforms that roll out in 2014. That's when insurers will start competing directly for enrollees on new health insurance exchanges and will no longer be allowed to deny coverage for preexisting conditions. Boudreaux is preparing the company for a more consumer-centric health care marketplace.

Final word: On the bulletin board at a recent UnitedHealthcare team meeting: "Success isn't the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire." Attributed to Arnold Glasow.