On Sunday, June 28, 2020 the country lost a fierce advocate and icon for health equity, Dr. Richard Izquierdo – affectionately known as “Doc”.
Dr. Izquierdo was born in East Harlem on October 23, 1929, to Serafin and Sinda Izquierdo, one of New York City’s original “bodegueros.” From an early age, he knew that he wanted to be a doctor and spent his entire life dedicated to serving his beloved South Bronx. His relentless commitment to serve the health needs of the South Bronx community encompassed a vision of providing comprehensive services. Much of what he tried to integrate into medical care and structure in his own practice early in his career, are generally accepted practices today.
Dr. Izquierdo attended medical school in Spain and Switzerland and married his beloved Adela, “the prettiest girl on the block,” in Spain in 1954. He graduated from the University of Lausanne Medical School in Switzerland in 1957, and completed his internship and residency programs in pediatrics at Fordham Hospital and post-graduate courses at New York University.
In 1962, he opened his first practice on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx, two blocks from where he grew up. From the moment he opened his first practice, Dr. Izquierdo dedicated himself to ensuring that his community received quality, equitable care. In 1967 he purchased an abandoned building on Southern Boulevard and Westchester Avenue to create the San Juan Health Center, which operated until 1974, when it became Urban Health Plan. Today Urban Health Plan is a system of community health centers throughout the Bronx, in Corona Queens and in Central Harlem, serving more than 90,000 individuals each year.
In September 2010, Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health & Science Charter School, a 6 to 12 grade school, opened its doors to provide an equitable education to the South Bronx community. This school fulfilled Dr. Izquierdo’s vision of building a pipeline of health professionals.
Dr. Izquierdo recognized that there were numerous factors that impacted the health of his community years before the phrase social determinants of health was coined. A fierce advocate for racial and social justice, in 1967, he was appointed by Borough President Herman Badillo to be the founding chairman of the newly established Community Planning Board 2, of which he was a member until his passing. He served on many boards and councils throughout his life.
A supporter of medical associations, he was an active member of the Bronx Medical Society and the Medical Society of the State of New York, as well as the Spanish American Medical-Dental Society since 1962. Dr. Izquierdo served on the board of AHRC for over 20 years, in memory of his daughter, Jackie, who was born with Down’s syndrome.
Dr. Izquierdo received numerous tributes throughout his lifetime, including the Surgeon General’s Medallion, the highest honor bestowed on a civilian, from the 17th Surgeon General of the United States, Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS and the Maclovio Barraza Award for Leadership from UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza). This national award recognizes those who have worked for the betterment of the Hispanic community and whose leadership has served as a source of strength and support to the Hispanic community. In February 2019, Doc received the American Medical Association’s Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Public Service.
In May 2018, the corner of Southern Boulevard and Westchester Avenue, in front of the former San Juan Health Center and the corner that began Urban Health Plan, was co-named in his honor.
Dr. Izquierdo will be remembered by his wife of 66 years, Adela, and sister, Nancy. He will also be dearly remembered by his daughter, Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez, son-in-law John Hernandez, granddaughters Kristina Hernandez (and daughter Asya) and Monique Hernandez and grand-son-in law, Gustavo Lones (and daughter Tess). His son, Richard Izquierdo, Jr., daughter-in-law, Lily Long, grandsons, RJ Izquierdo and Aaron Izquierdo, will forever remember him.
Dr. Izquierdo is also survived by daughter, Rima Izquierdo, and her three children, Darius Izquierdo, Ezequiel Torres and Lylah Torres.