Gov. John Carney on Tuesday, June 16, announced that Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker will leave her current role as the head of the Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS) this summer to join Nemours’ National Office of Policy & Prevention in Washington, D.C.

Walker, who has served as Secretary of the largest agency in Delaware’s state government since February 2017, is leaving her position to fulfill a desire to pursue healthcare policy work at the national level. She will serve in Nemours’ Washington office as senior vice president and chief population health officer. In addition to leading the Department of Health & Social Services’ ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Walker has led work at DHSS to:

• Develop first-in-the-nation healthcare spending and quality benchmarks in Delaware while slowing the growth rate of healthcare spending;

• Establish a reinsurance program in Delaware that reduced premiums by up to 19 percent on the individual insurance market in its first year and increased the number of people with coverage;

• Fund a reduction in a long-standing wait list for services among seniors and adults with physical disabilities;

• Create new Medicaid managed-care contracts that embed paying for value in healthcare instead of volume and include quality metrics;

• Hire former Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings to head the Group Violence Intervention program;

• Establish the Delaware Integrated Data System to support individuals and families in Wilmington impacted by violence;

• Expand the Community Partner Support Unit to address social service needs for individuals and families in the communities in which the unit serves;

• Reduce the barriers to individuals seeking treatment for substance-use disorder, including launching an online treatment referral system;

• Launch the My Healthy Community web portal, encouraging communities to assess the overall health of their residents for chronic diseases, mental illness and substance use, maternal and child health, and now COVID-19;

• Train more than 1,000 front-line employees in a trauma-informed approach;

• Raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 and make healthy beverages the default drink in kids’ meals; and

• Expand Medicaid dental coverage to adults, including individuals with disabilities.

“Since the day I took office as governor, Dr. Walker has been a central part of the most qualified and diverse cabinet in Delaware’s history,” said Carney. “Over the last several years, she has managed our health and social services programs with grace, poise, and with a steadfast focus on helping the Delawareans who are most in need.

“Kara’s compassionate leadership has been so incredibly important this year, as Delaware has grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Her leadership during this difficult time has saved lives, and helped Delaware respond successfully to this disease. Now we all need to do our part. Stay socially distant. Wear a face covering. Kara’s voice and leadership will be sorely missed in Delaware, but I’m confident she will continue to do great things at Nemours.”

“It was an incredible honor to be chosen by Gov. Carney to lead the team at DHSS and to be entrusted with meeting the needs of the people of Delaware,” said Walker. “It has been one of the highlights of my life to come back to my home state and lead the dedicated team of women and men here at DHSS. During the pandemic, I witnessed our team come together as never before and figure out new ways of meeting the health and social service needs of the people we are sworn to serve.

“I am grateful to the Governor’s Office, our fellow state agencies, the legislators, community partners and residents of Delaware for the faith they had in me and our entire department. While I know that we advanced many health and social service policies during my tenure, I will always wish that I had more time, because there is more work to address health equity, healthcare costs and access to care up and down our state, but particularly for vulnerable populations.”

Carney said he will nominate Molly Magarik, who currently serves as Deputy Secretary of DHSS, to serve as the next Secretary of the Department of Health & Social Services.

The agency, with 11 divisions and more than 4,000 employees, is responsible for meeting the health and social service needs of Delawareans by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency and protecting vulnerable populations.

The Delaware Senate is expected to consider Magarik’s nomination later this month.

“Molly is a proven leader, a problem-solver, and a committed public servant who has been second-in-command at DHSS for the last three and a half years,” said Carney. “Throughout her career, and especially as Deputy Secretary, Molly built important relationships and trust with members of the General Assembly, our healthcare systems, agency staff, and Delawareans throughout the state.

“As we continue to fight COVID-19, I’m confident Molly will be able to lead this department without missing a beat, while continuing our work to make Delaware a stronger and healthier state. I look forward to the Senate considering her nomination.”

“I am truly humbled and incredibly honored to be nominated by Gov. Carney as the next Secretary of the Department of Health & Social Services,” said Magarik. “I am grateful to the governor for the trust and faith he has in me to lead this agency, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to serve in his Cabinet. I thank Secretary Walker for her leadership and guidance, and for the inspiring way she had led our department for more than three years with an innovative spirit, a caring heart and an incredible commitment to improving the quality of life for Delawareans.”

Magarik has served as Deputy Secretary since February 2017, directing and managing key priorities for DHSS, including healthcare financing, payment and delivery system reform; budget administration and management; and early childhood education. She also served as the Department’s chief strategy officer, and developed and maintained partnerships with Delaware cabinet agency leaders, the legislature, the federal delegation, advocates and healthcare system leadership throughout the state.

Before joining DHSS, Magarik served as state director for then Congressman John Carney and political director for the late Beau Biden’s campaign for Delaware Attorney General. She also worked as a strategic advisor across nonprofits and government, including as executive director of the Delaware Democratic Party. She is a candidate for a master’s degree in healthcare delivery science from Dartmouth College, and earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and government from the University of Delaware. She and her husband, Josh, have two daughters and live in Middletown.