Illustration: Luisa Jung; Portrait: Rebecca Clarke

Making Health Care Affordable and Equitable


By Tracy Vogel

Growing up in Trinidad, Dr. Cheryl Pegus (M.D. ’88) started learning about health equity as a preteen. When her grandfather became seriously ill, she was put in charge of cleaning and bandaging his foot wound — probably an ulcer caused by diabetes, though the family didn’t know it at the time.

“We didn’t have the money to go to the doctors, and frankly they weren’t very welcoming, maybe because of class, maybe because of poverty, maybe race,” Dr. Pegus recalls. When she immigrated to the United States to join her mother at age 12, she already had a plan. “I told her, ‘I’m going to become a doctor.’”

Today, Dr. Pegus is a cardiologist working in health-care businesses on new products to meet consumer needs, enhance health equity and improve health outcomes — a focus encouraged, she says, by Weill Cornell Medical College mentors, including Dr. Joseph Hayes, a cardiologist who supported her interest in community health and health equity, while connecting her to opportunities through the American Heart Association. “One of the first initiatives I got involved in through the AHA was going to Black hair salons and teaching women about high blood pressure,” she says.

As executive vice president of health and wellness at Walmart, Dr. Pegus guided the rollout of ReliOn insulin, which the company says saved customers more than $15 million in insulin costs in its first year. She also oversaw Walmart’s pandemic response and delivery of millions of vaccines — 80 percent of which were administered in underserved communities.

“Ninety percent of America comes through a Walmart door annually, so if everyone can receive their immunizations, that is a significant impact on the lives of consumers and their families, while lowering health-care costs for individuals and businesses,” she says. Dr. Pegus left Walmart in November 2022 — though she remains an adviser — to join JPMorgan Chase’s Morgan Health venture as managing director. Her goal: to invest and partner with companies and startups to improve employer-sponsored health care and health equity, while addressing gaps in behavioral health, chronic conditions and affordability.

“It’s wonderful that we have, for instance, all of these wonderful new treatments for obesity, but we can’t lose sight of prevention-related factors like behavioral health and the management of risk,” Dr. Pegus says. “We will need data and collaboration on all fronts — prevention and treatment — to bring scalable solutions forward.”

Summer 2023 Front to Back

  • From the Dean

    Message from the Dean

    As Weill Cornell Medicine marks the 125th year since its founding, it is striking to reflect upon how our values have endured.
  • Features

    Window Into the Future

    An ambitious research program could hold clues to improving the health of women and their children across their lifespans.
  • Features

    Caught on Camera

    Recordings made in Dr. Simon Scheuring’s lab reveal how elusive molecules embedded in cell membranes get their jobs done — for good and ill.
  • Features

    Risks and Rewards

    Alumnus Dr. Anthony Fauci (M.D. ’66) joins Dr. Jay Varma in a candid conversation about the future of public health and more.
  • Notable

    Two Landmark Anniversaries

    Weill Cornell Medicine is celebrating more than a century of excellence in medical education, scientific discovery and patient care, commemorating 125 years since its founding.
  • Notable

    Honoring Diversity

    In a celebration of Weill Cornell Medicine’s commitment to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in academic medicine, the institution honored nearly a dozen faculty, students and staff.
  • Notable


    Weill Cornell Medicine faculty members are leading the conversation about important health issues across the country and around the world.
  • Notable

    News Briefs

    Notable faculty appointments, honors, awards and more — from around campus and beyond.
  • Notable


    The Salzburg-Cornell Seminars, now part of the Open Medical Institute (OMI), celebrates 30 years of knowledge-sharing, having served more than 26,000 fellows from 130 countries.
  • Grand Rounds

    There Is Hope

    How immunotherapy offered a new lease on life
  • Grand Rounds

    Medical School, Minus the Debt

    Weill Cornell Medicine’s debt-reduction program.
  • Grand Rounds

    News Briefs

    The latest on teaching, learning and patient-centered care.
  • Discovery

    Filling a Critical Gap in the Gut

    An important discovery positions fungi as a missing part of research on how the gut biome influences health.
  • Discovery

    New Clues to Coma Recovery

    Delays in regaining consciousness may serve a purpose: protecting the brain from oxygen deprivation.
  • Discovery


    The latest advances in faculty research, published in the world’s leading journals.
  • Alumni


    Forging critical connections to move research from the bench to the bedside, our alumni are making an impact.
  • Alumni


    What’s new with you? Keep your classmates up to date on all your latest achievements with an Alumni Note.
  • Alumni

    In Memoriam

    Marking the passing of our faculty and alumni.
  • Alumni


    Marking celebratory events in the lives of our students, including Match Day and Graduation.
  • Second Opinion

    Nurturing Well-Being

    How can the health-care workforce recover from pandemic burnout?
  • Exchange

    High-Risk, High-Reward

    Two enterprising scientists discuss how the ecosystem for innovation at Weill Cornell Medicine provides the support entrepreneurial faculty and students need to turn their promising research into commercially viable drugs and other treatments.
  • Muse

    In the Flow

    Dr. Navarro Millán is a rheumatologist, clinical investigator and multi-instrumentalist.
  • Spotlight

    Making Health Care Affordable and Equitable

    Dr. Cheryl Pegus (M.D. ’88) is a cardiologist working in health-care businesses on new products to meet consumer needs, enhance health equity and improve health outcomes.