Admiral John O. Agwunobi: US Healthcare and Public Health virtuoso

Admiral John O. Agwunobi who was a former Assistant Secretary for Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was born in Dundee, Scotland to a Nigerian father—a British trained physician—and Scottish mother. As a teen, Agwunobi’s family moved to Nigeria where he attended high school and university. He received his medical training at the University of Jos, where his father was a professor of medicine. 

Agwunobi has an enriched educational background that includes a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins University, a master in business administration from Georgetown University, and a certification as a Managed Care Executive from the American Association of Health Plans (AAHP). He completed his pediatric residency at Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC, rotating between Children’s National Medical Center and the District of Columbia General Hospital.
John O. Agwunobi, MD, MBA, MPH is one of Nigerians in the diasporas that are doing the nation proud in the healthcare and public health. A pediatrician, Agwunobi is a leader in clinical care, managed care, healthy policy, state and federal public health, retail pharmacy operations and optical service delivery. He was formerly Senior Vice President of Walmart Stores, Inc. and President of the retailer’s $30 billion Health and Wellness business from 2007 to 2014. At Walmart, Agwunobi was responsible for a chain of 4,000 retail, specialty and mail order pharmacies; more than 2,500 vision centers and 100 in-store convenient care clinics; and a pharmacy benefits management unit. During his tenure he drove up market share, profitability, and productivity while improving quality, compliance and accessibility to low-cost healthcare.
 Agwunobi served as the 12th Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH) from December 17, 2005 to September 4, 2007. During his term as the ASH, he was a member of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a uniformed service, and held the rank of four-star admiral. His responsibilities included disease prevention, health promotion, the reduction of health disparities, the fight against HIV/AIDS, pandemic influenza planning and vaccine preventable disease. As the ASH, John oversaw the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, the FDA, HRSA, Indian Health Service, Office of Minority Health, as well as numerous other Public Health offices and programmes. He also served as the U.S. representative on the World Health Organization executive board.
Dr. Agwunobi has a passion for leadership and innovation and saw his role as Assistant Secretary for Health as an opportunity to enhance the Secretary’s efforts to further the mission of HHS and the health of the nation by building, strengthening, and leveraging relationships across the public health community and the US Public Health Service.
Prior to his service in the federal government, Agwunobi served as Florida’s Secretary of Health under Governor Jeb Bush from 2000-2005. He confronted many public health challenges during his tenure, including leading Florida’s public health response to an unprecedented four major hurricanes that struck the state in 2004. In addition, Agwunobi led the Department’s response to the nation’s first-ever anthrax attack, subsequently guiding the state’s nationally-recognized efforts to prepare for, prevent and mitigate the effects of a bioterrorism attack.
Agwunobi currently serves as Vice Chair of the U.S. African Development Foundation, a federal agency dedicated to fighting poverty in marginalized populations on the African continent. He is a Board Advisor to Shopko, a Specialty Retail Stores Holding Corp. in Green Bay WI; Board Director for Magellan Health Services Inc. of Scottsdale AZ; and Member “Future” Panel of Leavitt Partners LLC, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Agwunobi has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including Public Administrator of the Year, APHA Public Health Hero Citation, and Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. He previously served as Chair of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee to the Director, and on the Board of Directors of the National Quality Forum—an advisory group formed at the recommendation of the President’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry.

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