Dr. Kara Odom Walker, MD, MPH, MSHS is Senior Vice President and Chief Population Health Officer (CPHO) for Nemours Children’s Health System. She leads Nemours National Office of Advocacy and Public Policy, as well as all aspects of Population Health Strategy, Research, Innovation and Implementation. Dr. Walker and her team are responsible for the development and implementation of national and state-specific advocacy strategies to help achieve outcomes tied to health and value while also leading Nemours’s policy agenda. She is based in Washington, D.C., and reports to Nemours President and Chief Executive Officer, R. Lawrence Moss, MD.
As Nemours CPHO, Dr. Walker will lead population health program development and an enhanced research program. She will also provide management oversight and direction of innovative models of health care delivery and full execution of population health strategies that lead to high-quality children’s health outcomes. This includes accountability for the advancement of the overall health of the populations we serve in addition to the well-being of children nationally and internationally. She will collaborate with operational leaders and share accountability for managed lives, including medically complex case management, school-based wellness programs and other programs for specific populations.
A highly accomplished executive, physician and scientist, she is a visionary leader who has focused her career on transforming health care delivery to ensure that the system is designed to create a healthier population. She has led efforts to focus on addressing critical social determinants that impact health while eliminating unnecessary medical tests and procedures. Her philosophy and vast experience are a tremendous asset to Nemours' goal of redefining health in children and transforming payment for medical care to ensure the healthiest generation of children.
Dr. Walker joined Nemours following public service to the State of Delaware as the Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Services (DHSS) and served in Governor Carney’s first elected term from February 2017 through 2020. As Secretary, she led 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 oversaw one of the largest departments in Delaware’s government, with an annual budget of more than $2 billion.
Dr. Walker previously worked as the Deputy Chief Science Officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), a nonprofit, non-government 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 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 her 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 and community medicine residency at the University of California San Francisco, graduated with a Master’s of Public Health from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Master’s 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.
She was born in Delaware and currently lives outside of Washington, D.C. in Maryland with her husband (Steven), daughter Sarai and son Sebastian.