SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Col. Rafael Rodriguez – Mercado, Command Surgeon for the 1st Mission Support Command (MSC), was nominated as the Secretary of Health for Puerto Rico by Governor-elect, Mr. Ricardo Roselló, on Dec. 12.
During a press conference at the Governor’s Reception Center in Old San Juan, Roselló announced his nomination for Rodriguez. “I want to thank Rodriguez Mercado for his willingness to continue serving the people of Puerto Rico, this time as Secretary of Health,” said Roselló. “I am sure he will execute his position successfully to make our government program a reality.”
Rodriguez is a native of Ponce, Puerto Rico and is currently a professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), School of Medicine and Director of the Endovascular Neurosurgeon and Stroke Center.
“The governor-elect contacted me about three weeks ago and informed me that I was in the running for Secretary of Health for Puerto Rico,” said Rodriguez. “There were four different candidates for this position, and he told me I was his top choice.”
Rodriguez was asked to think about the possibility of being the Secretary of Health, but before committing, he had to ensure he would still be able to perform surgeries if needed.
“There are only three endovascular neurosurgeons on the island, and I trained the other two,” said Rodriguez. “I needed to make sure that I would be able to continue my work as a surgeon. The two passions I have in life are academics and health. The health of our community is the priority.”
Rodriguez began his military career in 1988 and had served at several military hospitals. From 2002-2012, he was a Staff Neurosurgeon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center Staff Neurosurgeon National Capital Consortium. He was also a Staff Neurosurgeon at Brooke Army Medical Center from 2005-2012.
Rodriguez then served in the Puerto Rico National Guard as Assistant Surgeon and Field Surgeon. He is currently the Command Surgeon for the 1st MSC, Military Medical Review Officer and Eisenhower Army Medical Center PHA Physician at Rodriguez Army Health Clinic Fort Buchanan.
“My success as an endovascular neurosurgeon began when I joined the military,” said Rodriguez. “That is where I started to learn my profession.”
“As a command surgeon, I am practically a secretary of health but for a much smaller population,” said Rodriguez. “With my military experience and experience as Chancellor of the University Of Puerto Rico School Of Medicine from 2010-2013, I feel that I am prepared to take on this new position.”
Rodriguez not only plans on continuing with his medical career as an endovascular neurosurgeon, but he also intends to continue with his military career in the U.S. Army Reserve. “I spoke with Brig. Gen. Rosende and he will continue to support me so I can remain a member of the Reserve,” said Rodriguez.
“It is a great honor to know the caliber of our leaders and Soldiers and the quality of contribution that they provide the society and community in which they live and work,” said Brig. Gen. Alberto C. Rosende, commanding general for the 1st MSC.
“I know he will be successful because of the quality of individual that he is and the compassion that he exhibits towards all of those around whether they are superiors, subordinates or peer,” continued Rosende. “Col. Rodriguez will not be making any changes to his military career and will continue as our command surgeon. We will work with him to ensure he meets all of his responsibilities as Secretary of Health and the responsibilities to serve our units.”
Throughout his 28 years of service, Col. Rodriguez has left a lasting impression on many of his Soldiers and unit members. “When I heard Col. Rodriguez was nominated as the Secretary of Health for PR, I was excited but not surprised,” said Lt. Col. Catherine Delacruz-Duran, Staff Nurse Administrator for the 1st MSC.
“Col. Rodriguez is my immediate supervisor and from day one he has demonstrated his commitment to the health of this command and Soldiers,” continued Delacruz. “He has led the surgeon’s office with determination through months of changes in processes to ensure the 1st MSC became the number one unit in medical readiness throughout the Army Reserve.”
Delacruz describes Rodriguez as the most humble and compassionate person in her profession that she knows. “With Col. Rodriguez's leadership, I am confident that Puerto Rico's Heath Department will achieve all of their strategic goals to improve the health of her people,” said Delacruz.