Humana on Tuesday named Dr. Nwando Olayiwola as its first chief health equity officer, as Black, Latinx, Indigenous and other minority populations continue to contract and die from the COVID-19 virus at disproportionate rates.
In this new role, Olayiwola will set and direct strategy to promote equity at the Louisville, Ky.,-based insurer and across its business lines and ensure the insurer’s clinical programs and member services focus on cultural sensitivity.
Olayiwola comes to Humana from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, where she served as chair and professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, founding director of the Center for Primary Care Innovation and Transformation and a practicing physician at one of the university’s outpatient clinics.
Olayiwola will start her new role at Humana on April 5 and report to Chief Medical and Corporate Affairs Officer Dr. William Shrank.
“Dr. Olayiwola is highly regarded as an innovator and expert in harnessing technology to increase access to care for underserved and disenfranchised populations, as well as designing and implementing impactful clinical programs to address the personal needs and challenges people face in achieving their best health,” Shrank said in a statement.
Her move to Humana comes as the coronavirus pandemic spotlights the nation’s racial health inequities.
The Boston University COVID Tracking Project found that Blacks were 1.3 times more likely to contract and 1.6 times more likely to die from the virus than whites; Latinx were nearly 1.7 times likely to contract and 1.2 times more likely to die from the virus; and Indigenous people were more than twice as likely to contract COVID-19 and 1.2 times more likely to die from the virus.
As more attention is paid to race and income health disparities, and the Black Lives Matter movement ramps up its activism, more healthcare systems have reflected on the racial makeup of their C-suite. In an August 2020 survey of the 20 largest health systems, a Modern Healthcare analysis found the median percentage of senior managers who identified as racial or ethnic minorities among the 15 systems that responded to be just 20%.
Olayiwola said the field of health equity is growing.
“Unfortunately, we know there are hidden barriers to healthcare in our country, and I have always cared deeply about those who—by no fault of their own—have fallen through the cracks in our healthcare system,” Olayiwola said in a statement. “The field of health equity is growing and maturing, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to concentrate my efforts in this important area.”
Before her time at OSU, Olayiwola served as the first chief clinical transformation officer for the New York City-based RubiconMD telehealth provider. Olayiwola also served as the director of the Center for Excellence in Primary Care at the University of California in San Francisco and as the Chief Medical Officer of Community Health Center in Norwalk, Conn.
Olayiwola earned her medical degree from The Ohio State University and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. She completed her residency in family medicine at Columbia University and New York Presbyterian, where she also served as chief resident.
Olayiwola has also worked as a Commonwealth Fund and Harvard University fellow in minority health policy at Harvard Medical School, and earned her master’s degree in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health.