RICHMOND, VIRGINIA — Adira Foundation’s board of directors elected behavioral health scientist and health equity pioneer Dr. Cynthia A. Gómez as its chair for 2021.

Dr. Cynthia GómezShe succeeds James Rock, who served as chair since the board’s inception in 2019 and retired on Dec. 31.

“It has been a great honor to serve as Adira’s board chair,” Rock said. “I am incredibly proud of the organization we’re building. I am confident in our future under Cynthia’s leadership we will continue to grow and expand our impact.”

Gómez joined the board in October. She has demonstrated leadership and contribution to U.S. and international health policy, and has over 25 years of experience as a behavioral health scientist. She has been a pioneer in the integration of social determinants of health in research and in the development of community-based health interventions.

“I am deeply honored to have been elected as the chair of Adira’s board of directors,” Gómez said. “Adira is uniquely qualified to help the millions of people impacted by neurodegenerative diseases. I look forward to guiding the development of a strategic plan—alongside the whole Adira team. I also look forward to working closely with Greg Smiley, our impassioned founder and CEO, as well as our experienced and dedicated board of directors.”

Gómez has helped build strong and diverse health-focused organizations, including a community mental health center, a global HIV research center, and a broad-based health equity institute. She currently consults around health equity, health policy, and community-informed science.

Gómez served on nonprofit boards her entire career, including now as the ETR, Inc. board chair, and the board of the San Francisco Community Health Center. She also served on the federal advisory committee of the Department of Health & Human Services’ Secretary’s Advisory Committee on National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives for 2030 (Healthy People 2030). A native of California and of Mexican descent, Gómez grew-up in Ecuador and Puerto Rico before going to college in Boston. She has a master’s degree in counseling and consulting psychology from Harvard University and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Boston University. She has over 100 scientific publications.

A significant moment

“This is a significant moment for Adira. I’m deeply grateful to Jim for the leadership, dedication, and passion that helped launch Adira,” Adira CEO and Founder Greg Smiley said. “We will miss Jim.”

Yet, he said: “I am excited for what the future holds under Dr. Gomez’s leadership. She brings a wealth of nonprofit and health equity leadership experience, which will be critical to our ability to grow quickly in this post-pandemic world, that laid bare the disparities embedded in our health systems.”

Rock chaired the board through Adira’s incorporation in 2019 and first year of operation. Rock was a primary caregiver to his wife, Sandra, who was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2001. He spent 35 years as the founder and owner of Rock & Associates, a consumer products broker. His advocacy work to educate policymakers on IPF and its impacts, including five years of outreach to Members of Congress, resulted in the passing of a House Resolution identifying IPF as a terminal disease.