New Springfield health center CEO wants to improve community health

The Rocking Horse Community Health Center has hired Dr. Jose Rodriguez-Diaz as its new chief executive officer.

The health center’s board of directors announced the hiring on Wednesday morning. Rodriguez-Diaz will begin his new role on Monday, replacing former CEO Chris Cook, who resigned in May.

Rocking Horse, which opened in 1999, has 140 employees at four locations in Clark and Madison counties, including offices at Keifer Academy and the Mulberry Terrace apartment complex.

In 2013, the organization completed an $8 million expansion at its facility near downtown Springfield. The Rocking Horse Center serves more than 12,000 patients annually and provided about 51,000 doctor visits last year.

Rodriguez-Diaz is currently the co-founder and senior managing partner at Tulsa, Okla.-based Pacific Health Partners, a consulting group where he leads the practice transformation and strategic planning division. He was previously the CEO of AID Atlanta, a nonprofit that provides HIV/AIDS-related services.

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>> RELATED: Cook resigns as Rocking Horse CEO

Rocking Horse’s presence in the community is what lured Rodriguez-Diaz to the community, he said. The organization can be supportive of expansions happening around Springfield, Rodriguez-Diaz said.

“One of the things that did attract me to moving here was the energy and the people and how positive people think here in Springfield,” he said.

Last December, Springfield was named the least healthy city in Ohio. Rodriguez-Diaz believes he can make a positive difference on that by working not just with health-care partners, but community agencies in other areas, such as transportation and the labor force.

The focus will be on building the health center’s behavioral approach to identify factors keeping patients from access to care, Rodriguez-Diaz said, which can lead to lower health indicators on annual health rankings.

“The coordination of that care doesn’t just happen inside Rocking Horse,” Rodriguez-Diaz said. “It has to extend to the relationships we would have with the department of transportation and food pantries and those types of organizations that are critical to the overall public health of Springfield and the surrounding counties.”

Rodriguez-Diaz, a native of Argentina, holds a medical degree from the University of Buenos Aires, completing his residency in pediatrics. He also completed a residency at the University of California-San Francisco in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as a fellowship in maternal fetal medicine and fetal medicine.

He also holds graduate degrees from the University of California-Berkeley in both public health administration and health care informatics and quality.

“Dr. Rodriguez-Diaz brings to Rocking Horse Community Health Center a record of exceptional leadership and strategic vision in community and public health,” Board President Gus Geil said in a statement. “His strong passion for community health will guide the expanding mission of the (health center) and our service to the Springfield area.”

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Rocking Horse will serve as an important catalyst to make Springfield healthier, Rodriguez-Diaz said. Without a healthy community, it will be difficult to find homegrown talent to fill jobs for the expanding local economy, he said.

“How can you expect to have a stable working ethic if you don’t have a healthy population?” Rodriguez-Diaz said. “That’s my passion.”

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