Overseeing the Post-9/11 U.S. Military Health System

Stepping into a new role comes with any number of challenges, especially if that new job was leading the entire U.S. military’s healthcare efforts just 10 days after 9/11. Bill Winkenwerder assumed the role on September 21, 2001, having spent his early career as a physician and executive for large health insurance companies. While this professional experience helped, Winkenwerder cites on-the-job learning as the key to his success. Bill Winkenwerder sits down with GLG to discuss the challenge of stepping into new roles, the modernization of military health records, Gulf War Syndrome, and more.

From 2001 to 2007, Bill Winkenwerder served as Assistant Secretary of Defense, Health Affairs at The Department of Defense, where he led healthcare efforts for nearly 10 million members, including the entire U.S. military, veterans, and their families. In this position, Winkenwerder oversaw a $40 billion annual budget and was responsible for more than 130,000 medical professionals across 70 hospitals and 800 clinics worldwide.

From 2012 to 2014, Winkenwerder was CEO of Highmark, Inc, the country’s seventh largest health insurer and third largest integrated financing and delivery system with $17.5 billion in annual revenues. Previously, Winkenwerder served in several senior executive positions at large-scale companies including Emory Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and Kaiser Permanente.

Winkenwerder currently serves on several boards of privately-backed companies and is a trusted advisor in the healthcare space. He earned an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, an M.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, and a B.S. from Davidson College.


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