Learn More About Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, MD
Excelling in leadership both in the military and civilian worlds, Vice Admiral (Ret.) Raquel C. Bono, MD has made a career out of fulfilling a mission greater than herself. Improving public health has been a personal and professional passion of Bono’s, and her leadership and operational strategies are helping businesses weather – and conquer – constant disruption.
Having served more than 30 years with honor and distinction as a Navy Officer who rose through the ranks throughout her career, Dr. Bono is a board-certified trauma surgeon who became the first woman surgeon in the military to hold the rank of Vice Admiral. Through her highly visible leadership roles in the public and private sectors, she empowers leaders and civilians of every background with her transformational leadership frameworks, willingness to disrupt convention, and passion for pioneering positive change.
“So much of what I’ve learned in the military health system has great applicability to the private health care system and to public, non-medical organizations,” explains Bono, Chief Health Officer of Viking Cruises. “The work we’ve done at Viking since 2020 has been proof of the concept that taking a public health-informed approach and fostering an engaged and informed company culture, is a profitable, healthy, and sustainable strategy.”
Remarking that the pandemic sharpened her appreciation for science and organizational discipline, Bono advocates for leaders to use a thoughtful mindset when rethinking how we deliver care and navigate crises. Recognized as one of the 50 Most Influential Clinical Executive Leaders, 50 Most Influential Healthcare Physician Executives and Leaders and 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare, Bono believes the pandemic brought front and center the solution for rapid transformation, which combines the powers and capabilities of government, society, and business. Viewing genuine leadership as a collaboration and an important tenet of leading organizational change, Bono advises leaders to ask questions and make requests, rather than give orders, so they are better equipped to identify what people are best at naturally and how they can foster a higher level of performance from those within their organization. Her engaging presentations offer leaders a practical framework that includes careful observation and responsive listening so leaders can create an environment where people are able to efficiently and innovatively accomplish organizational goals.
As the first Asian-American woman promoted to Vice Admiral and a firm believer that inclusive diversity strengthens organizations, Bono strongly encourages women and minorities to pursue careers in the military and medicine. To address the gap, she launched the Military Health Corps’ Female Physicians Leadership Course to encourage diversity, retain women physicians, and give military women the skills they need to succeed in senior leadership roles. Today, it is an annual three-day course that trains more than 100 women military physicians each year.
“As a leader, you have to be willing to make change happen,” explains Bono, who is accustomed to blazing new paths and continues to be a leading voice on pandemic management strategies that can be applied to any crisis. “Genuine leadership is not for the weak of heart, it takes courage, self-knowledge and thoughtfully applied skills that can feel very uncomfortable to perform publicly and during change. By sharing the lessons I’ve learned, I’m eager to bring our society together to design the public health reality we’ve always dreamt of.”
Dr. Raquel Bono served her country in combat arenas during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, held directorships at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, and was the CEO and director of the Defense Health Agency from 2015 to 2019. During her tenure at the DHA, she integrated an unprecedented $50 billion worldwide health enterprise of 50 hospitals and 300 clinics formerly managed by individual military branches. During the pandemic, she was appointed head of Washington state’s Covid-19 health care response team by Governor Jay Inslee. Not one to rest on her laurels in retirement, in addition to her leadership role at Viking Cruises, Dr. Bono is a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, a principal at RCB Consulting, and in June 2022 joined the Health Advisory Board at CNSI Health.
Dr. Bono received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas, Austin, her MBA from Washington State University (Spokane, WA), and her MD from Texas Tech Health Sciences Center (Lubbock, TX). She completed her surgical internship and residency at the Naval Medical Center (Portsmouth, VA) and performed a trauma and critical care fellowship at the Eastern Virginia Graduate School of Medicine (Norfolk, VA).
Raquel Bono is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.
Succeeding Through Any Crisis Via the Microcosm of the Cruise Industry During Covid
“As a military officer, if I ever found myself relying on giving orders to get something done, then I had failed as a leader,” says Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, MD. “Giving orders to make change happen is a failure of leadership.” As the Chief Health Officer for Viking Cruises, Dr. Bono has been a trailblazer in how to successfully lead through simultaneous public health and business crises. With genuine leadership, an engaged company culture, and a thoughtful and informed approach, Viking served as a real-time example in successful pandemic management that included on-board PCR testing, applied public health interventions and epidemiologically-informed shipboard operations that led to successfully restarting and sustaining cruising during the pandemic. According to Dr. Bono, there’s a formula of the solutions that Viking employed for any organization. An outspoken advocate for involving others by asking questions and making requests, rather than directing with unilateral orders, Dr. Bono can consult a wide variety of organizations to provide operations recommendations on how to redesign their strategies differently to successfully weather existing and future crises.
Navigating Disruption: A Roadmap for Purposeful Leadership
The most effective leaders recognize certain inherent traits (both good and bad) and purposefully develop their more positive traits while acquiring additional skills that allow them to create conditions and design environments for people within organizations to successfully adapt to and create meaningful change. The circumstances may be easier or the path more natural for some, but the best leaders are thoughtfully and purposefully developed. Drawing on nearly four decades as a champion of change in military medicine, Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, MD shares her own stories of leadership from the battlefield to the boardroom – illustrating why leadership is more than a job or a collateral responsibility or a mere professional competence, it’s who you are. Dr. Bono, who has studied and practiced the discipline, art and science of leadership, discusses her philosophy for making purposeful decisions, and why it often takes being pushed to the edge of your comfort zone to recognize where conventional thinking needs transformation and redesign. Attendees inside and outside of health care and the military will learn from – and be inspired by – Dr. Bono’s leadership insights from the frontline. From organizational shifts and culture changes to the structures, systems and strategies required to make institutions more effective, she encourages you to think differently about what it takes to lead, both in times of peace and conflict.
A Prescription for Co-creating Health Care with Our Patients
Health care is a complex landscape difficult to navigate for even health care systems, health leaders, health providers, and regulators – but it shouldn’t be so vexing for patients. Our nation’s health care system has so many advanced therapies and treatments, but if it appears unattainable to the people we serve and who deserve it the most, shouldn’t we do something about it?
Dr. Raquel Bono has seen many of of the ironies first-hand, as a caregiver and patient. In this presentation, she shares the personal epiphany that made her realize just how challenging it is for average people to navigate a system that isn’t designed for them – and led her to begin making unprecedented systemic and sustained changes to how U.S. military health care is delivered. Her experience and expertise are widely applicable and actionable.
Dr. Bono details her framework for designing the care continuum with patients, co-creating a delivery system informed by their values and priorities and responsive to their needs. Her transparent approach, including an open-door policy for patients and media in addition to staff, offers numerous insights for what it will take to build a health care system that ensures patients receive the best care, without regard to divisions along service lines or capabilities.
A Story of Inspiration, Achievement and Success Against the Odds
Dr. Raquel Bono grew up believing she could do anything. As a three-star U.S. Navy Vice Admiral, trauma surgeon, health care disruptor and executive, she’s broken glass ceilings, championed (and conquered) systemic change, and blazed new leadership paths for the women, men, and minorities who’ve come after her. Dr. Bono believes everyone can do “it” – whatever your “it” may be – with the right guidance, encouragement and support. In this intensely personal and deeply inspiring presentation, Dr. Bono talks about her life and career, and how she continues to find ways to “think and do big” and provide others with the tools and encouragement they need to perform at higher levels. This is a talk for all audiences, and one that promises to move you – challenging you to find the confidence and courage to believe in yourself and make an impact.
Viking Taps Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, M.D., as Chief Health Officer
November 25, 2020
Stepping up State Fight Against Coronavirus
March 27, 2020
Retired Vice Admiral’s Work To Promote Diversity Never Stops
November 25, 2019
Creating a Cohesive Medical Care System for the Military
November 14, 2019