Headshot of Nakela L. Cook, M.D., MPH, executive director at PCORI

Nakela L. Cook, M.D., MPH, is the executive director at PCORI. She is a cardiologist and health services researcher with a distinguished career leading key scientific initiatives engaging patients, clinicians and other health care stakeholders at some of the nation’s largest health research funders.

Cook leads PCORI’s research, engagement, dissemination and implementation, and research infrastructure development work. She also provides oversight to a growing number of programs and initiatives designed to create a more efficient, effective, equitable and patient-centered system of health. Under her leadership, and with extensive engagement of stakeholders, PCORI established a bold strategic vision to address the challenges, including social determinants of health, facing patients and communities in our nation’s complex, fast-changing health system.

Prior to her current role, Cook served as senior scientific officer and chief of staff at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the third largest institute of the National Institutes of Health. At NHLBI, she spearheaded the development and implementation of its strategic plan as well as initiatives in cardiovascular outcomes, precision medicine, data science, sickle cell disease and women’s health.

Cook earned her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and a Master of Public Health in health care policy and management from Harvard School of Public Health. She completed her clinical training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and is an alumna of the Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy.

Throughout her career, Cook has worked to enhance diversity and equity in research and care delivery and has been a leader in efforts to reduce disparities in health access and outcomes. She has received numerous awards for her excellence in clinical teaching and mentorship as well as her leadership of complex scientific initiatives and programs.

Leadership Perspectives

March 2023: Innovations and Initiatives: A Look Ahead at 2023
Dr. Cook talks about the innovations and initiatives PCORI has planned for this year, including new funding opportunities and promising projects that will inform a more equitable, efficient and accessible health system.

November 2022: Annual Meeting Highlights Essential PCORI Values
Dr. Cook discusses the highlights of a very successful Annual Meeting, where more than 2,000 attendees heard compelling keynote addresses and expert panel discussions covering health equity, the continuing impact of COVID-19, intellectual and developmental disabilities, maternal health, and much more.

August 2022: PCORI’s Strategic Plan: What Is Next?
Now that PCORI’s Strategic Plan has been approved by the Board of Governors, our attention turns to implementation planning and developing an evaluation strategy. Dr. Cook looks ahead to some of the ways PCORI will use this roadmap to guide us toward achieving our bold goals for the future.

June 2022: Learning Drives Innovation in New PCORI Initiatives
Patient-centered outcomes research inherently entails innovation, and innovation inherently entails learning, as experimentation generates evidence that leads to new questions and approaches through a "virtuous cycle" of learning. Dr. Cook outlines three current PCORI initiatives that serve as excellent examples of this approach to innovation and iterative learning.

February 2022: What Does 2022 Hold for PCORI and Our Stakeholders?
Dr. Cook reflects on a strategic planning process that is coming to fruition in 2022, illuminating a refined focus on outcomes, a strengthened commitment to health equity, and continued innovation in PCORI’s funding of comparative clinical effectiveness research.

December 2021: Innovations in PCORI Application and Funding Processes Will Increase Clarity, Opportunities for Applicants
PCORI is always looking for ways to respond to stakeholder feedback and enhance our processes to achieve our mission more effectively. This includes enhancements to PCORI funding opportunities and application processes aimed at increasing efficiency and clarity for applicants. Dr. Cook shares her thoughts and more details about these enhancements.

October 2021: Why Are PCORI's Stakeholders So Critical to Our Work?
Seeking the diverse perspectives of PCORI’s stakeholders is more important than ever as we aim to hear a variety of voices, build trust, and achieve health equity. Dr. Cook shares her thoughts on why stakeholders are so critical to PCORI’s work.

June 2021: Pursuing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Transformation of Health Research Funding
PCORI has been built on the values of inclusion, diversity, equity (DEI), and appreciating individual differences. Our very mission brings all stakeholders in health together to engage collectively to drive greater health and healthcare impact. Dr. Cook discusses her commitment to enhancing our work against racism, bias, and discrimination and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in all that we do.

January 2021: A Year of Challenge Brings a Wealth of Opportunity
This year, we are spurred by what we achieved in the last and inspired by our ambitious goals as we continue our leadership in patient-centered outcomes research. In her inaugural Leadership Perspective, Dr. Cook shares how we found opportunities to learn and lead in 2020 and outlines our future focus.


PCORI's Mission to Help People Make Informed Healthcare Decisions
Dr. Cook outlines PCORI’s creation and mission to fund research that helps people make better-informed healthcare decisions based on their needs and preferences.

PCORI's Commitment to Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Dr. Cook shares what excites her about PCORI’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Wenger Award

Cook Named 2020 Wenger Award Honoree
In October 2020, Dr. Cook was recognized for her contributions to women's heart health with the 2020 Wenger Award for Excellence in Public Service. The annual Wenger Awards are presented by WomenHeart, a national patient-centered organization that focuses exclusively on heart disease and heart health in women.

Conflicts of Interest

As of July 18, 2022

Financial or Business Associations:

  • None reported.

Personal Associations:

  • American Medical Association, Member, Self
  • Association of Black Cardiologists, Member, Self
  • American College of Cardiology, Fellow, Self
  • American Heart Association, Fellow, Self
  • National Clinical Scholars Program, Board Member, Self


Person Type