Portrait by Devi Pride Photography.
I came from very humble beginnings, growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois—a place rivaled by street gangs and poverty. I am the son of a schoolteacher and a construction worker, with two older siblings. My parents instilled in me the lessons of education and hard work, and the wisdom that helping people was the only way to live.
“We only have each other. Everything else is just stuff.”
—Mrs. Edna James (my mom)
I have worked in health care for more than 20 years, beginning in the U.S. Navy as a hospital corpsman serving as an emergency medical technician, sick-call screener, operating room technician, and urology specialist. After an honorable discharge, I went back to school to earn my bachelor’s in healthcare management from Southern Illinois University and my master’s in health system management from Rush University. I served as the chief operating officer at San Mateo Medical Center, a government safety-net hospital for the underserved, and as the executive director of Dignity Health Medical Group—Dominican, which operates 20 clinics in Santa Cruz County.
In my current role as the executive director of the Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley, I get the opportunity to problem-solve and help the community. I do that by listening to the issues, staying true to my roots, being creative, mentoring leaders, and trying to open as many doors as possible. I also serve on the local United Way board of directors, Health Improvement Partnership steering committee, Watsonville Hospital board of directors, and DataShare steering committee.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.”
Growing up in poverty, seeing the world from many different perspectives and serving the community, gave me the drive and passion I have today. I have seen that money, family, and friends can be taken from you at a moment’s notice. Thus, we must cherish our relationships and try to enjoy all we do. Outside of work, I DJ weddings and referee high school basketball. Helping people and your fellow man is the military creed as well as my mom’s motto, and it has driven my career to this day.
I am blessed to share my beliefs with my loving wife and two children. They have aided my success, guided my passion, and put gasoline in my tank.