Robert Otto Valdez, Ph.D., M.H.S.A.

Director of Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

Robert Otto Valdez, Ph.D., M.H.S.A., was appointed Director of AHRQ in February 2022. He was previously the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Professor Emeritus of Family & Community Medicine and Economics at the University of New Mexico (UNM).  From 1993 through 1997, Dr. Valdez served at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health (Public Health Service) and simultaneously as Director of Interagency Health Policy (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).  Before joining DHHS in 1993, he served as a Special Senior Advisor to the Clinton White House on healthcare reform. He chaired the Healthcare Reform Benefits Workgroup and was a member of the Analytic Modeling Workgroup. He previously served in the Office of Child Health for the Health Care Financing Administration during the Carter Administration.


In 2008, Dr. Valdez was the Founding Executive Director of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at UNM. He previously served as the founding Dean at the Drexel University School of Public Health. From 1985 through 1999, he was a Professor of Health Services at the UCLA School of Public Health. He directed the health services doctoral studies program, the MBA/MPH program, in collaboration with the UCLA Anderson School of Business. He served as associate director of the Chicano Studies Research Center. 


Dr. Valdez started his career as the lead child health researcher for the historic RAND Health Insurance Experiment. Internationally recognized as an expert in health services research, the U.S. healthcare system, and health policy analysis, he has led numerous global healthcare initiatives with the Pan American Health Organization and the University of California. His health promotion and disease prevention work with Univision Communications Corporation, “Salud es Vida: ¡Enterate!” was recognized with journalism’s prestigious Peabody Award.


In 1998, he served as Special Senior Advisor to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. His public service includes serving as Chairman of the New Mexico Community Foundation, the American Hospital Association Foster G McGaw Prize Committee, and the Public Health Institute, one of the nation’s largest non-profit public health agencies serving communities across California and internationally.