RWJF Names Herminia Palacio, MD, former Head of Houston area Public Health Agency, as Senior Program Officer

    • May 5, 2014
Headshot of Hermina Palacio

Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced the appointment of Herminia Palacio, MD, MPH, as director and senior program officer, Human Capital and Leadership Teams. For the prior 10 years Palacio served as executive director of Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services in Houston, the local health department responsible for more than two million people. She brings a broad range of academic, clinical and public policy experience to her new position, helping the Foundation to develop health leaders for the 21st Century.

Since its inception more than 40 years ago, the Foundation has considered the development of leaders in all sectors of health one of its primary missions. This year, after careful analysis, RWJF is taking a new approach to the health challenges we face as a nation to build a Culture of Health. To help achieve that vision, the Foundation is developing new health-focused leadership programs that connect people across sectors as well as disciplines and capitalize on technology to promote networking and mentoring. Palacio will play a key role in developing and implementing this new direction.

“It is a great privilege to have Herminia join our staff at this critical juncture,” said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD. “She has the experience, knowledge, and insight into both the practice of medicine and public health, and experience bridging the two that is critical for developing a new generation of leaders focused on creating a culture of health.”

While she was the chief public health official in Harris County, Palacio dealt with a range of challenges, from outbreaks of infectious disease to sheltering and caring for the influx of evacuees from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. She was awarded the Excellence in Public Health 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.

“I am thrilled to be working at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a leader in helping to improve the health of all Americans, in all aspects” said Palacio. “I look forward to developing and supporting new approaches and programs that will provide the tools and support needed for today, and tomorrow’s, health leaders.”  

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national culture of health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

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