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Walmart's chief medical officer sets exit

by Serenah McKay | April 1, 2021 at 1:54 a.m.

Walmart Inc.'s chief medical officer, who oversaw several health initiatives and for the past year helped pilot the retailer during the pandemic, is leaving the company.

Dr. Tom Van Gilder's last day with the Bentonville-based retailer will be May 15, according to an internal memo sent Tuesday to employees. The memo makes no mention of a search for Van Gilder's replacement.

He joined Walmart in December 2018, according to his LinkedIn profile, which also says he's an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison's School of Medicine and Public Health.

Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart's executive vice president of health and wellness, said in the memo that Van Gilder is leaving to spend time with his family in Wisconsin and "pursue new opportunities."

Hired as the company's first full-time chief medical officer to lead its Walmart Health clinic initiative, Van Gilder "advanced our overall health and wellness strategies through leadership of quality initiatives, training programs and pharmacy clinical services," Pegus said.

Van Gilder has advised the company during the pandemic, Pegus said, using his knowledge of public health "to become a steady resource to recommend and guide how we supported our associates, protected our customers, handled state mandates, enacted our remote work policy, and how we rolled out testing and vaccinations."

During 2020, Walmart made some big moves into the health care field, perhaps most notably by growing the number of Walmart Health low-cost clinics across the country. It also participated in coronavirus testing, turning its parking lots into drive-thru test sites and allowing its pharmacists to volunteer their help with testing.

In October, Walmart opened a Medicare insurance plan brokerage. Walmart Insurance Services LLC offers Medicare Part D, Advantage and Supplement plans from a number of carriers.

This year, Walmart pharmacies signed on to a federal program to provide covid-19 vaccinations across the country as supplies of the vaccine became available. The pharmacies also give the inoculations through state and local programs.

A Walmart spokeswoman on Wednesday didn't address whether Van Gilder's departure was related in any way to the hiring of Pegus, who joined Walmart on Dec. 21.

Pegus, who at one time was chief medical officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., was hired to lead health and wellness "across the Walmart enterprise," the company said in a news release at that time.

Walmart's health and wellness unit encompasses the Walmart Health clinics as well as more than 4,700 pharmacies, more than 3,400 Vision Centers, digital health capabilities and Walmart Insurance Services.

The news release announcing Pegus' hiring said she would report directly to John Furner, president and chief executive officer of Walmart's U.S. division.

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