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®.