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John O. Agwunobi
John O Agwunobi.jpg
Admiral John O. Agwunobi, USPHS
Assistant Secretary for Health
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
Years of service 2005–2007
Rank Admiral
Commands held Assistant Secretary for Health
United States Public Health Service
Awards Public Health Service Regular Corps Ribbon
Other work Republican

John O. Agwunobi, MD, MBA, MPH served as the 12th Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH) from December 17, 2005 to September 4, 2007. During his term as the ASH, he was a serving member of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a uniformed service, and held the rank of four-star admiral. As the ASH, Dr. Agwunobi served as the Secretary's primary advisor on matters involving the nation's public health. He also oversaw the US Public Health Service and its Commissioned Corps for the Secretary.

Agwunobi was the author of a recommendation against the rescheduling of marijuana, sent from HHS to the DEA in 2006, which stated that marijuana "has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of an accepted level of safety for use under medical supervision."[1]

Agwunobi was born in Dundee, Scotland. His father trained as a medical doctor in Great Britain and then returned to his native Nigeria, so Agwunobi was largely raised in Nigeria. He received his medical training at the University of Jos, where his father was a professor of medicine.[2]

Dr. Agwunobi is a public health professional with experience in health care delivery, managed care, and health policy. Prior to becoming the ASH, he served as Florida's Secretary of Health and State Health Officer, under Governor Jeb Bush, from October 2001 to September 2005. Dr. Agwunobi confronted many public health challenges during his tenure, including leading the state's public health and medical response to the unprecedented four major hurricanes that struck Florida in 2004. In addition, the day after being named Secretary, he led the Florida Department of Health in its response to the nation's first-ever anthrax attack. He subsequently guided the state's nationally recognized efforts to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and mitigate the effects of a bioterrorism attack. As Secretary, Dr. Agwunobi led the call for a healthier Florida, advocating for improved nutrition and exercise in an effort to address the state's epidemic of obesity. His department's many successes included responses to West Nile virus, SARS, other infectious disease outbreaks, efforts to decrease the state's infant mortality rate, lowering tobacco use among young Floridians, addressing racial and ethnic health disparities, and improving overall access to medical and dental care.

As a pediatrician, Dr. Agwunobi dedicated himself to working with under served populations. Before moving to Florida, he was Medical Director and Vice President of Medical Affairs and Patient Services at the Hospital for Sick Children, a Washington, DC-based pediatric rehabilitation hospital and community health care provider. He simultaneously served as medical director for an affiliated managed care plan, where he maintained a network of more than 2,300 physicians and specialists. Dr. Agwunobi completed his pediatric residency at Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC, rotating between Children's National Medical Center and the District of Columbia General Hospital—then one of the nation's busiest inner-city hospitals. In addition to his medical degree, Dr. Agwunobi holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and a Master of Public Health degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD. He is also a certified managed care executive.

Dr. Agwunobi has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including Public Administrator of the Year, APHA Public Health Hero Citation, and Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. He previously served as Chair of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee to the Director, and on the Board of Directors of the National Quality Forum—an advisory group formed at the recommendation of the President's Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry.

With his role as Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Agwunobi saw this as an opportunity to enhance the Secretary's efforts to further the mission of HHS and the health of the nation by building, strengthening, and leveraging relationships across the public health community and the United States Public Health Service.

Agwunobi resigned as Assistant Secretary for Health to become Vice President for Professional Services at Wal Mart.[3]


  1. Petition for Writ of Mandamus filed by the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis
  2. article on Agwunobi's appointment as Assistant Secretary of Health
  3. Wal Mart announcement of Agwunobi's appointment

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