He led a social justice movement in the 1970s to provide health care for Latinos in the south Bronx and nearly 50 years ago founded Urban Health Plan (UHP).
Sadly, at the age of 90, Dr. Richard “Doc” Izquierdo passed away Sunday night.
Throughout his life, Doc worked tirelessly to improve health care in the south Bronx. He was a long time member and first chairperson of Community Board 2 and he led the fight to restore the south Bronx after hundreds left the area due to drugs, fires, poverty and redlining.
In 2010, he and his daughter Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez, who serves as CEO of UHP, founded the Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health & Science Charter School at 800 Home St. This was the first charter school in NYC to offer educational programs geared toward preparing students for jobs in the health care sector.
“With a wonderful sense of humor and no-nonsense attitude, Doc brought his wealth of knowledge, compassion and love to everything he did,” Urban Health said in a statement. “He loved music and dancing and had a deep respect for his profession. We will miss his generous spirit, his kindness, his big heart and his even bigger love for life.”
Izquierdo was a life-long resident of the south Bronx and a pediatrician and family practitioner. Because of the lack of primary care services in the area, many residents had grown accustomed to waiting on long lines in local hospital emergency rooms for routine medical care or for the treatment of acute medical conditions, which could have been prevented if diagnosed earlier.
Dr. Izquierdo opened the San Juan Health Center in 1967. Seven years later, UHP, a private, nonprofit corporation licensed by the Department of Health, was established to broaden the scope of the work started by the San Juan Health Center.
Many people expressed praise and condolences to Izquierdo on social media. Among them was Borough President Ruben Diaz. “Doc” was not only Diaz’s pediatrician, but his son’s as well. In fact, in 2015 he was given the key to the borough.
“He was not just a doctor, but a role model, fighting for community,” Diaz said on Twitter. “Dr. Izquierdo was also nimble on his feet with his flashy salsa moves. I know he’s dancing in heaven. I’m going to miss him dearly.”
For many years, he was one of the few doctors in the community. He became an icon for the neighborhood and a person that was always sought out. He truly became “The Urban Country Doctor.”
In 1967, he was appointed by Borough President Herman Badillo to be the first chairman of the newly formed Community Planning Board. He also served as the Chairman of the 41st Precinct Community Council for 14 years.
Doc has served on numerous and varied organizations. He hosted a radio program called “Puerto Rican Panorama” on NBC and interviewed over 150 prominent Puerto Ricans. He has been 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.
Councilman Rafael Salamanca also reflected on the departed.
“Dr. Izquierdo was a mentor to me growing up and a beloved leader in more ways than one,” Salamanca said on Twitter. “Throughout my years at Urban Health Plan Inc. and well past that time, I knew, without a doubt, I could always turn to Doc for advice, as so did many others. Doc’s love for dedication to his community remains awe-inspiring and for that I will always remember him with profound admiration.”