Dr. Herminia Palacio joined the Guttmacher Institute as President and CEO in August, 2019. In this role, Dr. Palacio shapes and 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 the Institute’s work.
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 healthcare system, expanding access to social services, and ensuring that agencies serving the City’s most vulnerable populations are run compassionately, equitably, and effectively. She had oversight for eleven City agencies and mayoral offices entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers, with a total 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 10 years as Executive Director of Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services; a jurisdiction that provided select public services for over 4 million residents of Harris County, including the city of Houston, as well as comprehensive public health services for over 2 million people living in the unincorporated county and over 30 small municipalities.
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 mega-shelter operation in 2005. In this role, Dr. Palacio was responsible for standing up and overseeing the public health and healthcare 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 previously served as a Special Policy Advisor to the Director for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, where she addressed a variety of public health challenges and issues. Throughout a storied career, Palacio has demonstrated strong dedication to public health issues 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 nearly 15 years at San Francisco General Hospital during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She has also held a number of fulltime or adjunct academic appointments at medical and public health schools, including the University of Texas School of Public Health and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston as well as the University of California at 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 at Berkeley School of Public Health, and a BA in biology from Barnard College at Columbia University. She has authored numerous articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
She served on the Harris County Healthcare Alliance (HCHA), as President of the Texas Association of Local Health Officials (TALHO), as Chair of the Texas Public Health Coalition. Nationally she was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), and appointed to both 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.