Reginald "Reggie" Parker, after climbing the ladder at Walmart, is now paving the way for other Black compliance and risk management professionals.
Parker, director of U.S. health and wellness compliance program management for Walmart Inc., credits his faith-based foundation with propelling him to reach educational and professional goals. And it was Parker's tenure in the U.S. Air Force that introduced him to "the compliance world," he said.
The road to compliance
"Chicago is home where family is and really just a place where I think I got my foundation," said Parker, who was born and raised in the city. "I would say any Black child growing up in a city is rooted in the church." His family attended Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, where the late civil rights activist Dr. Reverend Clay Evans was pastor, Parker said. "I just learned so much and was nurtured in that environment," he added.
Parker joined the military after high school, and earned a bachelor's degree at Loyola University, "through the Air Force and their programs," he said. Parker eventually earned a Master of Laws in intellectual property from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a juris doctor from Texas Southern University.
When he became an officer in the Air Force, one of his first assignments was to review a unit self-inspection program, "which prepares us for the inspector general's programs,"he said. But it "really is nothing but a compliance program," Parker added. He would later take on the role of a health service administrator.
"All of the hospitals within the military in the U.S. are generally accredited, either by the Joint Commission, or the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care," Parker said. Working with leadership to prepare for the accreditation was his first entry into the compliance profession.
Parker served for 24 years in the Air Force, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He then went from active duty to reserves. "My civilian career took me to Procter & Gamble," Parker said. He worked in government affairs with some emphasis on compliance work, but that changed when California created a mandatory compliance program for healthcare pharmaceutical companies to meet both the office inspector general guidance, and the pharma code guidance on compliance, Parker said.
"My next role was to help co-lead in building a full compliance program for Procter & Gamble global healthcare and pharmaceuticals at the time," he said. "So, that's where I fell knee deep into it." And then Parker's career path led to Walmart.
Shaping compliance at Walmart
In his leadership role at Walmart, Parker oversees a full range of senior governance and compliance leadership functions including strategic planning, process improvement, project management and risk assessment, he said. He shapes compliance activities for its health and wellness division, comprising Walmart Health locations, hearing centers, vision centers and pharmacies. In a previous role, Parker was director of ethics and compliance serving as the chief ethics and compliance officer for the West Division.
"I'm really now doing the work that's exciting," Parker said. "There are five subject matter expert teams that I support within the healthcare area. My main focus is to really ensure from a programmatic perspective, that all the programs that they look at, or participate in or create for operational partners is compliant.”
To carry out that task, Parker works with operations partners to understand what the business has, what they're doing, where they're going, and what are the needs, he said. Effective communication, risk assessment, ensuring there's proper training for associates so they are aware of the requirements and working with the field team to make certain standards and controls are being monitored are all essential, Parker said.
A seat at the table
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Parker said his team was prepared to meet any challenges as compliance is routinely involved with decision-making processes. "Here at Walmart, [even] as large as we are, when a project or idea comes up, they don't generally bring us in at the end of it," Parker said. In the beginning, "we're there at the table and have that seat," he said. "If there are any issues, we can mitigate it upfront," Parker said.
Making sure compliance is kept in regard to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, for example, happens in communication with teams, which is a common place and routine practice, Parker said. "In the healthcare area, we have a practice compliance team that works directly with our pharmacies," he explained. "We have a Walmart Health team that's working with our Walmart Health area. We have a credentialing team [and] a HIPAA team. We have these subject matter experts who work with those agencies to understand the requirements we need to be compliant as a corporation.”
Once any risks are identified, standards and controls will be applied "and then we're going to train our associates to ensure that they know what the requirements are, and what they need to do to be compliant," Parker said.
Creating diversity in the compliance field
Parker serves as a founding board member and vice-chairperson of the board of directors for the National Association of Black Compliance & Risk Management Professionals, which was founded in 2019.
"It's a privilege and a blessing to be a part of this organization," Parker said. Prior to this organization, there were "none that's tailored to the Black compliance and risk management professional," he said. "Our vision, to have a community where compliance ethics and risk management professionals can come and collaborate, share various resources, get training, have personal development, mentoring, and really invest in this field," Parker said.
The organization is reaching out to colleges and universities to cultivate interest in the field, he said. Parker said he wasn't "formally aware" of a career in compliance when he was completing his studies. Most law schools don't tell you that's a field you can pursue, he said. "I hear from others that law schools aren't built for that," Parker said. The focus is on litigation and law practice, but there are so many other areas to pursue, and compliance is one of those areas, he said.
The organization provides professionals the opportunity to be part of a community think tank, "a collective that really allows them to reach their highest level of achievement," Parker said. Eventually, it plans to create a mentoring program, he said — something that benefited his own career. In an earlier position at the company, Parker said the mentorship of Walmart U.S. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dacona Smith helped him to solidify his leadership skills in retail, but also "see what a true leader of retail is all about.”
"Here at Walmart," he said, "I have just been blessed by a lot of different people that have poured into me, both formally and informally."