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DHSS Press Release

Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: February 6, 2017


NEW CASTLE (Feb. 6, 2017) - With Gov. John Carney and the leadership team of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) looking on, Dr. Kara Odom Walker was sworn as DHSS Cabinet Secretary in a ceremony this morning at the Department's Community Chapel on the Herman Holloway Campus.

"It is such an opportunity to serve my state," said Secretary Walker, who took the oath from Family Court Judge Jennifer Ranji, a former Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families, as her husband, Steven Walker, held the family Bible. "I am honored to commit to serve our citizens, and to work with the best and most dedicated in our state."

Gov. Carney nominated Dr. Walker as Cabinet Secretary on Jan. 5. Her nomination was confirmed by the Delaware Senate on Jan. 18.

"I thank Dr. Walker for her willingness to serve," Gov. Carney said. "She has taken the solemn oath to lead the biggest agency in state government and to serve the people of our state. When she wakes up every day, she knows her work will make a real difference in people's lives. She's one of our best."

A Caravel Academy high school graduate, Secretary Walker earned her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and her medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. She has a Masters of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and a Masters in Health Services Research from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health, where she also completed a post-graduate fellowship in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars program. She is a board-certified family physician and has provided direct patient care in many primary care settings, including those for uninsured and underserved populations. She has published research papers on physician workforce issues, health care organization and delivery.

Most recently, Secretary Walker worked as 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 formerly taught Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, as an Assistant Clinical Professor, and 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, Student National Medical Association and 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.

As one of the largest agencies in state government, DHSS has 11 divisions, employs more than 4,000 people and delivers services that touch the lives of all Delawareans. The Department's mission is to improve the quality of life for Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency and protecting vulnerable populations.

Secretary Walker succeeds Rita Landgraf, who has accepted a position with the University of Delaware's College of Health Sciences as a professor in practice and distinguished health and social services administrator in residence. She also will serve as director of the UD Partnership for Healthy Communities.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Photos from the swearing-in ceremony are posted on DHSS flickr page:

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.