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Dr. Kara Odom Walker was sworn in as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services on Feb. 6, 2017. As Secretary, she leads the principal agency charged with keeping Delawareans healthy, ensuring they get the health care they need in a fast-changing world, and providing children, families and seniors with essential social services including food benefits, disability-related services, and mental health and addiction treatment. She oversees one of the largest departments in Delaware's government with an annual budget of more than $2 billion.
As Secretary, Dr. Walker chairs the Health Fund Advisory Council, and is a member of the Delaware Health Care Commission and the Delaware Center for Health Innovation Board. Secretary Walker previously worked as the Deputy Chief Science Officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), a nonprofit, nongovernment organization in Washington that is authorized by Congress to improve evidence available to help patients, caregivers, employers, insurers and policymakers make informed health care decisions. She managed the Institute's research investments, which totaled $1.6 billion in 2016, toward a planned total of $2.5 billion by 2019.
She is a board-certified practicing family physician and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Prior to joining PCORI, she was a faculty member of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She has worked with several national organizations to advocate for health equity and for access to quality health care in minority and underserved populations, including the National Medical Association, the Student National Medical Association and the American Medical Association. Dr. Walker has been recognized for leadership by Harvard Business School's Program for Leadership Development, the American Medical Association and the National Medical Association. A respected leader, innovator and clinician, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in 2018. Election to the NAM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine, recognizing individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement.
Dr. Walker completed her family medicine residency at the University of California San Francisco, graduated with a Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Masters of Health Services Research from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health, where she also completed her fellowship in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars program and graduated valedictorian from Caravel Academy high school.
Secretary Walker envisions enhancing a Delaware community in which all citizens have the opportunity to access quality, affordable health care in order to attain their optimal health, while working to reduce the cost of that care. She believes in a DHSS that is efficient and effective in terms of service delivery, and is responsive to all Delawareans, including seniors, individuals with disabilities, and people suffering from addiction, serious mental illness or homelessness so they can live and thrive in their communities.