Longtime Virginia Garcia Leader Takes Multnomah County Job

Serena Cruz at Virginia Garcia event..jpg

After eight years as executive director of the Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation, Serena Cruz will depart.

Serena Cruz will depart her role as executive director of the Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation after being hired to a top job in Multnomah County government.

Cruz has been named chief operating officer for Oregon's most populous county. She has been the Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation's executive director since 2013.

"I am sad to leave Virginia Garcia and our wonderful team here," Cruz said in a statement. "Six-year-old Virginia's story and our mission to remove barriers to high-quality healthcare personally motivated me to share our story throughout the community, engaging caring members in supporting the work we do, our patients' care, and to advocate for health equity."

The Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation, and the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center that operates clinics throughout Washington and Yamhill counties, is named for Virginia Garcia, the daughter of migrant farmworkers who died of an infection in 1975.

The Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center was founded in Garcia's honor "to prevent similar tragedies from occurring," according to its website. The Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation is its nonprofit fundraising and advocacy arm.

Cruz is well known throughout the region. In addition to her work as the Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation's executive director, Cruz also served for eight years as a Multnomah County commissioner. Gov. Kate Brown named her to the statewide Racial Justice Council, which advises the state government on issues of equity and racism.

County Chair Deborah Kafoury announced last month that Cruz had been hired as chief operating officer.

"Serena brings a deep understanding of the county's operations, employees and commitment to racial justice," Kafoury said at the time. "I am thrilled at the chance to bring all of her professional experience and personal warmth back to this organization."

In a statement released by the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, Cruz added, "You can be sure I will take Virginia Garcia's commitment to removing barriers, delivering high-quality services, and a passion for equity with me to my new role."

Stefanny Caballero has been named as interim executive director of the Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation. Caballero also serves as the foundation's development officer.

According to Virginia Garcia spokesperson Kasi Woidyla, hiring managers at the organization will be looking for someone "with strong connections to the community as well as a desire to ensure decisions at the organization continue to be made with diversity, equity and access to healthcare as the primary focus" to take over as executive director.

Virginia Garcia will begin reviewing applications this week, Woidyla added in a news release.

 You can reach Mark Miller, Editor-in-Chief, Washington and Columbia at [email protected].

This story was originally published by the Portland Tribune.

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