Jorge Riopedre, president and CEO of the Casa de Salud clinic, said Monday he’s leaving the St. Louis nonprofit in November.
Riopedre started as executive director of the clinic, which offers low-cost health care to uninsured foreign-born people, shortly after it opened in 2010. Since then, Casa de Salud has more than quadrupled its number of employees to 28, doubled in physical size and served patients from more than 90 countries.
Riopedre said the clinic is on sound financial footing so he decided it was time to leave on his own terms.
“It gave me the personal freedom to say, ‘OK, if I want to make this decision for myself, I don’t have to worry that Casa isn’t in shape to have a leadership transition,” he said. “I’m leaving it in tremendous shape.”
He said since he started, the clinic’s annual budget has grown from $250,000 to more than $2 million. Casa de Salud, at 3200 Chouteau, offers five times the number of services than it did in 2010, Riopedre said.
Riopedre served as executive director until 2018, when his title was changed to president. Under his leadership, the clinic launched its GUIA case navigator program, which helps patients find and pay for health care, and a low-cost mental health facility that provides services in patients’ native languages.
“As the son of immigrants, I felt it was my calling to welcome immigrant men and women to our community, just as my family was embraced when they arrived in America,” said Riopedre, a native of Cuba.
The announcement was unexpected, said Edward Macias, president of the organization’s board of directors. He credits Riopedre with growing the clinic’s reputation, an extremely important skill in the nonprofit world.
“I can tell you the board is extremely sorry to lose Jorge and was completely surprised by this decision of his, which I think he had been thinking about for some time,” Macias said. “What certainly has changed over time is it’s grown in strength, more clients; its reputation has grown dramatically in the community so that people know about us.”
The clinic’s strong reputation has attracted physicians and volunteers to work at the clinic.
Macias said he hopes the clinic’s standing in the community will help in finding a replacement for Riopedre.
Before coming to Casa de Salud, Riopedre worked for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis and had his own broadcast-media-production company, which specialized in researching and creating content for Hispanic audiences.
Riopedre said he doesn’t know what he’ll do next but plans to stay in St. Louis, where he says “there’s a lot of work to be done.” He hopes to continue to work with vulnerable populations.
“One of the things that really appealed to me right now is the thought I’ve made my mark,” he said. “Here I am with a lot of experience and a good track record under my belt. I’m really going to look around and be choosy.”
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