Brownsville’s Public Director of Health and Wellness for the city of Brownsville Art Rodriguez, Ph.D., has led a successful career in the health care sector and it all started at Texas Southmost College.
The TSC alumnus graduated from the college with a certificate in emergency medical services in 1987, an associate degree in respiratory care in 1989 and an associate degree in nursing in 1992, laying the foundation for a health care career that spans three decades.
However, health care was not Rodriguez’s first career choice.
“I grew up wanting to be in law enforcement,” said the Brownsville native. “I wanted to be in the FBI or CIA solving crimes. That was my dream, until a building downtown collapsed.”
Rodriguez was already in a police academy when the incident happened so being close to the action made him reflect on life and how he wanted to serve his community.
Not long after, he left the academy and began his journey in health care at TSC.
“TSC’s rigor set me up for the success I’ve seen, especially as a first-generation college student,” said Rodriguez. “I couldn’t wrap my head around the transition from high school to college and TSC guided me and opened my eyes to what I needed to do.”
Coming from a humble Brownsville home, Rodriguez said his family put pressure on him to work immediately after high school, but he knew he wanted a career he could count on for years to come.
“I started college looking for rides and riding the bus,” he said. “I proactively started saving before college and I was able to buy a car, but I had to work my way through college to get what I needed. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.”
Through college and even after, for the next 15 years of Rodriguez’s life, he would work multiple jobs.
He began his career as an emergency medical technician for the city of Brownsville. He quickly became certified as a paramedic and eventually became the Director of EMS. During that time, he also worked as a flight registered nurse, contract nurse and home health nurse.
Rodriguez also continued his education, earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate degree in nursing practice – health care executive leadership.
“TSC was the biggest motivation I had to continue my education,” he said. “TSC has a learning environment that is conducive to growth. I never felt alone in my journey thanks to TSC. I gained an unimaginable confidence in myself and my skills because of its instructors and learning environment.”
Slowing down a bit, but never losing his servant heart, Rodriguez returned to the city of Brownsville serving in his current position to affect positive change, educate, promote and serve in the areas of health and wellness.
His role has also been vital in the fight against COVID-19.
Since the World Health Organization issued the pandemic declaration in March 2020, he has led the response team in establishing the first COVID-19 PCR testing at the Brownsville Sports Park and tested both Brownsville and Harlingen residents during the virus’ peak months of May through August 2020.
His team also developed a community alert system “COVID-19 Threat Matrix,” aimed at keeping residents informed on community and hospital COVID risks and safety procedures, added community outreach initiatives reaching more than 60% of Brownsville households, partnered with TSC to create a disinfection specialist course and partnered with TSC, the local fire department and Brownsville Independent School District for COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
“Our department is multi-faceted, dealing with issues like the pandemic to health and safety regulation compliance,” said Rodriguez. “Our first priority is keeping our community safe and healthy. Wellness is crucial.”
In addition to keeping his community healthy and safe, Rodriguez is also working toward becoming a certified life, mind set coach to support the personal and professional growth of his colleagues and others around the community.
“Had it not been for TSC breaking barriers for first-generation students like me, I don’t know the path my life would have taken,” said Rodriguez. “TSC was the best place for me and I can’t imagine my life without it.”