Dr. Kara Odom Walker was sworn in as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and 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 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, 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, American Medical Association and the National Medical Association.
A Caravel Academy high school graduate, she 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.
Secretary Walker envisions 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.