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WASHINGTON, DC — The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) announced today that Nakela Cook, MD, MPH, a cardiologist with a distinguished career leading key research initiatives engaging patients, clinicians and other health care stakeholders at one of the nation’s largest public health research funders, has been named PCORI’s next Executive Director.

Dr. Cook, whose appointment was announced by PCORI Board of Governors Chairperson Christine Goertz, DC, PhD, comes to PCORI from her role as a Senior Scientific Officer and Chief of Staff for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), one of the largest institutes within the National Institutes of Health. She will assume her new position April 15, taking over leadership of PCORI from Interim Executive Director Josephine P. Briggs, MD, who has held that post since Nov. 1, 2019.

“On behalf of PCORI’s Board and staff, and the health care community we serve, I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Cook as our new Executive Director,” Dr. Goertz said. “Her deep experience in research, in managing a large and complex research enterprise, and her strong commitment to patient-centered research and clinical practice make her exactly the right person to lead PCORI at this time. She will be an excellent steward of the vital work we will do in the years ahead, as we partner with patients, clinicians, payers, employers and other stakeholders to improve the health and health care of the people of this country.”

Dr. Cook will lead PCORI’s research, dissemination and implementation, and engagement work as the organization enters its second decade of service to the nation. She will provide strategic and day-to-day oversight of ongoing programs as well as new initiatives designed to create a health care system that is more efficient, effective and patient centered.

“I am honored to take on the important role of Executive Director at PCORI,” Dr. Cook said. “PCORI’s mission fully reflects my personal and professional values and commitment to promote excellence in health and health care in a way that is patient centered and engages all parties to help us achieve shared goals. As a clinician and researcher focused on improving patient outcomes, I can’t imagine a more exciting opportunity.”

In her current position, Dr. Cook oversees a staff of 1,000 and an annual budget of $3.2 billion. She has spearheaded the development and implementation of NHLBI’s research strategy and planning and implementing initiatives in precision medicine, data science, sickle cell disease and women’s health, ensuring that these initiatives meaningfully engaged patients, patient advocates, professional societies, policymakers and other stakeholder groups. Throughout her career, Dr. Cook also has worked to enhance diversity and equity in research and care delivery and been a leader in efforts to reduce disparities in health access and outcomes.

PCORI’s multi-stakeholder Board unanimously selected Dr. Cook from among a large pool of highly qualified candidates after an extensive, months-long search undertaken by a national recruiting firm and overseen by a special Board committee. As part of the recruitment process, the firm gathered input from more than 250 representatives from various stakeholder groups across the health care community, including patient advocacy groups, clinician professional societies, health policy organizations, the life sciences industry, health systems, health insurers and employers.

“We are delighted Dr. Nakela Cook has been selected as Executive Director of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Dr. Cook is a distinguished clinician and health services researcher who brings crucial leadership experience from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to PCORI,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “PCORI has become an integral part of our nation’s research enterprise, funding important contributions to help our understanding of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association is proud to have partnered with PCORI to create a research center that produces and tests decision aids to help people with atrial fibrillation and we look forward to continued collaboration. Dr. Cook is an outstanding leader and scientist who will continue PCORI’s critical work to identify innovative, patient-centered approaches to care.”

Prior to her current role, Dr. Cook was a Clinical Medical Officer in the NHLBI’s Division of Cardiovascular Sciences and an attending cardiologist at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC. She has a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, earned her medical and public health degrees at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, respectively, and did her clinical and research training at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.



The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is the nation’s leading funder of patient-centered comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER). By comparing two or more health or healthcare approaches, CER generates evidence that helps people make better-informed decisions and improves healthcare delivery and outcomes. PCORI takes a holistic approach to its work, ensuring that patients and other health decision makers are engaged as partners throughout the research process, supporting dissemination and implementation of results in practice and strengthening clinical research infrastructure to advance patient-centered CER. PCORI is an independent, non-profit organization authorized by Congress.

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