Dr. Herminia Palacio joined the Guttmacher Institute as President and CEO in August 2019. In this role, Dr. Palacio guides the Institute in fulfilling its mission to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States and globally. She works to create a strong organizational culture, provide leadership and inspiration for the Guttmacher staff, and shape the Institute’s long-term vision to ensure the continued impact of its work. (Learn more about Dr. Palacio’s vision for Guttmacher in The Lancet’s November 2019 profile.)
Prior to joining the Guttmacher Institute, Dr. Palacio served as Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services for the City of New York. In this role, she was in charge of coordinating transformation efforts across the city’s public health and health care system, expanding access to social services and ensuring that agencies serving the city’s most vulnerable populations are run compassionately, equitably and effectively. She oversaw 11 city agencies and mayoral offices, which were entrusted with protecting the health and well-being of all New Yorkers and which had a combined budget of $24 billion—approximately a quarter of the city’s budget.
Dr. Palacio brings more than 25 years of experience across a broad range of sectors, including academic and clinical medicine, governmental public health and philanthropy. She previously served as Director of Advancing Change Leadership at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), where she was responsible for developing and implementing new health leadership programs. Prior to joining RWJF, she served for 10 years as Executive Director of Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services. In this role, Dr. Palacio oversaw the provision of a range of public health services for the third most populous U.S. county, including select services for the city of Houston and full public health services for the two million residents living outside of Houston.
Dr. Palacio is a crisis management expert who was charged with serving as Medical Branch Director for the Hurricane Katrina Houston/Harris County Reliant Park/Astrodome megashelter operation in 2005. In this role, Dr. Palacio was responsible for standing up and overseeing the public health and health care delivery emergency response operations for 27,000 evacuees from the New Orleans area. Her work during Hurricane Katrina earned her the Excellence in Health Administration Award from the American Public Health Association in 2007. Dr. Palacio also addressed a variety of public health challenges as a Special Policy Advisor to the Director for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Throughout a storied career, Palacio has demonstrated strong dedication to public health and a clear ability to respond with innovative solutions that influence national policy.
In addition to her policy work, Dr. Palacio practiced clinical medicine for nearly 20 years, including almost 15 years at San Francisco General Hospital during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She has also held a number of full-time or adjunct academic appointments, including at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine.
Dr. Palacio received her medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, a master of public health from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health and a BA in biology from Barnard College at Columbia University. She has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Dr. Palacio has lent her public health expertise to a number of regional and national organizations and committees, including the Harris County Healthcare Alliance, as President of the Texas Association of Local Health Officials; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Board of Scientific Counselors for the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response; and 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.