Kara Odom Walker, MD, MPH, MSHS is Executive Vice President and Chief Population Health Officer (CPHO) for Nemours Children's Health, where she leads all aspects of population health strategy, research, innovation and implementation. Her scope of responsibility includes the advancement of the overall health and well-being of children, both broadly and among the populations served by Nemours Children's. Dr. Walker is a board-certified, practicing family physician.
Dr. Walker also leads Nemours Delaware Valley primary care network and its Value-Based Services Organization. She collaborates with Nemours operational leaders and shares accountability for managed care initiatives, including medically complex case management, school-based wellness programs and other services for specific populations.
As CHPO and a member of Nemours Executive Cabinet, Dr. Walker also leads Nemours National Office of Policy and Prevention and State External Affairs, Office of Health Equity and Inclusion and the Ginsburg Institute for Health Equity at Nemours Children’s Health. She and her team support the development and implementation of the organization's national and state-specific advocacy strategies to help achieve outcomes tied to health and value, while also leading Nemours' federal policy agenda.
Prior to joining Nemours, she served as 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's many accomplishments at DHSS include:
- Developing first-in-the-nation health care spending and quality benchmarks in Delaware
- Creating a state reinsurance program that reduced premiums in its first year and increased the number of people covered
- Shaping new Medicaid managed care contracts that include quality metrics and embed paying for value — not volume — in health care
Secretary Walker previously worked as the Deputy Chief Science Officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), a nonprofit, nongovernment organization in Washington. Congress authorized PCORI to help people make informed health care decisions informed by funding research guided by patients, caregivers and the broader health care community. She managed the Institute's research investments, which totaled $1.6 billion in 2016, toward a planned total of $2.5 billion by 2019.
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 is a board member of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement and the University of Vermont Medical Network. She also serves on the National Academy of Medicine Population Health Roundtable.
She completed her family medicine residency at the University of California San Francisco and is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. She earned a Master’s of Public Health from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and a 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.