Nieves New CEO

“After a comprehensive search and selection process that involved both internal and external candidates, we chose the person best fit to assume leadership of our healthcare organization,” said Mike Garza, Chairman of the CBHA Board of Directors. Gomez’ academic background and practical experience, coupled with his ties to the community, made him the ideal selection. Nieves succeeded long-time CEO and President Greg Brandenburg on March 1, 2018. Brandenburg will remain in a part-time consulting role during a 14-month transition period.

Gomez is a local success story, attending kindergarten through high school in Othello before enrolling in college at Eastern Washington University. Witnessing the medical challenges his own family faced inspired his degree choice and his heart for service.

“My brother Abdiel (Abe) was paralyzed in a terrible car accident at 17,” Gomez shares. “I was 13 at the time. He spent months in the hospital struggling to walk again. I was his caregiver. I pushed him in his wheelchair, and I remember thinking, as we navigated doorways, that I wished more people stopped to hold them open.” The experience made a deep and lasting impression. His brother recovered and went on to graduate from University of Idaho (UI).

Gomez finished a bachelor’s degree in social work, and interned with Leo Gaeta, CBHA’s Vice President of Programs.

“Leo sent me out into the fields and orchards where our patients are,” Gomez shares. “I talked to people at work, learned about their lives, and saw what they face and are exposed to on a daily basis.” CBHA and serving his community became his calling. He returned to EWU, finished a master’s degree in social work, and accepted a position as a behavioral health provider with CBHA.

As a Behavioral Health Specialist, Gomez saw how his work impacted people on an individual basis, but he wanted to do more. “I wanted to affect change,” he confides. To prepare himself for leadership he returned to school to complete a master’s degree in public administration, Greg then took him under his wing. “Greg tapped me on the shoulder one day and asked if I was interested in a leadership role,” Gomez explains. “His encouragement helped me map my future. I looked up to Greg, watched what he did, and took note of his strategic planning.” Gomez shares that his wife, Valerie, has been equally integral to his success. She supported his goals as he worked and finished graduate school.

Gomez accepted a position as Site Director of CBHA’s Wahluke Family Clinic in Mattawa. There he gained interest and experience with technology implementation and capacity development. In his three years as site director, he worked with staff to add a portable 3D X-ray unit and helped improve facility and staff and provider process efficiencies. Gomez admits that may not have left the position had he not learned the importance of patient experience firsthand.

When Gomez and his wife became parents, their son Liam progressed normally for months, and then his movement started to decline. He was diagnosed with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy), a disease that affects the motor nerve cells of the spinal cord in young children. They were referred to Seattle Children’s Hospital where the staff and providers became intimately involved with their case. The staff at Seattle Children’s Hospital consoled the young family, crying alongside them when they lost Liam in March 2013.

“This life-altering event showed us that the right kind of care from medical professionals can help a person bear the weight of so much sorrow,” Gomez remembers. “I recognized the importance of putting people first. I’m driven to help our patients feel as comfortable as possible in our clinics. I want them to see CBHA as a safe place to recover, and I want our staff and providers to feel like family.”

Several years later, Valerie gave birth to twin girls and the very same day the couple lost their brother-in-law in a drowning accident.

When a friend learned Gomez had applied for the CEO position, Gomez was asked if it was the right time to take on the role. He replied with an emphatic and wholehearted “Yes!”

“My personal trauma and losses drive my passion to raise awareness about health topics, like SMA, and to provide access to the best care possible in our community,” says Gomez.

He explains that the effect of his family’s experiences on his life, and the satisfaction he gets from helping CBHA better serve patients, contribute equally to his feeling that healthcare leadership is his calling. “Intentional leadership is my passion,” Gomez says. . “I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to choose work that is so aligned with my values.”

Greg Brandenburg, CEO of CBHA for the last 20 years, is quick to applaud the Board of Directors’ decision. “Nieves is a young man with character and enduring values,” he says. “He believes in and lives CBHA’s mission every day. He’s a champion for patients, and in the last five years he’s grown as a young executive, delivering value-driven results across the organization. He has the confidence, thought leadership, and enduring passion to take CBHA to the next level.”

Gomez says he is humbled and excited about the opportunity to lead such a dedicated, talented group of people. “CBHA is positioned to become the new standard in rural healthcare in the United States because of Greg Brandenburg’s leadership.” Gomez said. “I speak for the whole organization when I say that we are thankful for his decades of direction. He has put the right vision and strategy in place, and his thoughtful succession plan will assure long-term success.”

Gomez is also grateful for Brandenburg’s continued mentorship –a role he tries to model. He and his wife Valerie are active in their church and with family and community gatherings. He also keeps busy with three-year-old twins, a nine-month-old daughter, guitar playing, and games of pick-up soccer.

Having grown up in and then returned to the Columbia Basin area, Gomez fittingly titled his executive presentation for the CEO position “Together Forward…” He explains that because CBHA is a community health center, he intends to ensure that the organization is active in the community. “We (CBHA staff and providers) are intentional about what we do here. We strive to provide the best healthcare services possible. To do that we need to know what our community needs.”

Gomez is passionate about CBHA’s commitment to the communities we serve. As an organization we want to hear from our patients and our community. How can we improve your experience? What additional services do you need? We are happy to visit you at your organizations, your coffee gatherings, and activity groups to answer questions and hear your feedback. We welcome the community’s ideas and thoughts. Please visit cbha.org to comment. CBHA and you – Together forward.