Herminia Palacio


Herminia Palacio, MD, MPH, director, joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2013. As part of the Foundation’s approach to building a Culture of Health, she plays a key role in helping to develop new health-focused leadership programs that connect people across sectors and disciplines and capitalize on technology to promote networking and mentoring. She brings a broad range of academic, clinical, and public policy experience to helping the Foundation to develop health leaders for the 21st Century. As she puts it: “I view our team’s role as developing and supporting new approaches and programs that will provide the tools and support needed for today’s, and tomorrow’s, health leaders as they work to improve the health of all Americans, in all communities.”

Palacio is an alumna of the RWJF Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program, and recently served as a member of the national advisory committee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program.

Prior to joining RWJF, she was executive director of Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services (HCPHES), the local health department for approximately 2 million people in Houston, Texas. As the chief public health official in Harris County, Palacio dealt with a range of challenges, from outbreaks of infectious diseases to sheltering and caring for the influx of evacuees from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. She was awarded the Excellence in Health Administration Award by the American Public Health Association in 2007.

Palacio has also held a number of academic appointments, including adjunct professor in Management, Policy, and Community Health at the University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston since 2006. She also taught at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine. She received her medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and holds a Masters of Public Health, with a specialty in epidemiology, from the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health, and a BA in biology from Barnard College at Columbia University. She completed the distinguished RWJF Harold Amos Program in 1999. Palacio did her primary care internal medical residency at San Francisco General Hospital.

She is an author of numerous articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and was featured in a permanent exhibit entitled “AIDS: The War Within” established by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry in 1994.

She served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the Texas Association of Local Health Officials (TALHO), the Harris County Healthcare Alliance (HCHA), and served as Chair of the Texas Public Health Coalition. She recently served on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response and currently serves on the CDC Advisory Committee to the Director.  In 2011 she was appointed by President Obama as a member of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.

Though still a city kid at heart, she now thoroughly enjoys long bike rides, hikes through the woods, and has even been occasionally spotted rafting in whitewater rivers.

Herminia Palacio