Delaware Valley Community Health, Inc. provides a range of medical and dental services to 42,000 Philadelphia-area patients, about a third of whom are uninsured or, because they lack citizenship status, uninsurable.
As vice president and chief operating officer, Brenda Robles-Cooke ’91 oversees every aspect of DVCH’s day-to-day operations, including capital projects, insurances, grant writing, front desk registration, and housekeeping. It’s a long list, and Robles-Cooke prides herself on being a hands-on leader. She also doesn’t consider what she does work.
“I get up every morning and go to work, but it doesn’t feel like I’m going to work,” Robles-Cooke says. “It just feels like an extension of who I am. It feels like I’m helping people and doing good for the community every single day.”
The first in her family to finish high school, Robles-Cooke graduated from TCNJ with a BS in business management and received her MBA in health administration from Temple University. She says TCNJ’s Educational
Opportunity Fund Program made college possible for her. In turn, she’s paved the way for the rest of her family to get their degrees: Her sister returned to school and became a nurse, and all three of Robles-Cooke’s cousins and nieces are in college and call her often for advice. “I’m proud to be a role model in our family,” she says.
Robles-Cooke began working at DVCH in 1995, and by 1999 had ascended to COO. Since then, she has helped DVCH become the first Joint Commission Accredited community health center in Philadelphia—a designation recognized nationwide—and led a decade-long quest to build the Maria de los Santos Health Center, a $13 million facility, which opened in 2008.
In 2012, the Delaware Valley Most Influential Latinos Foundation recognized Robles-Cooke as one of the region’s most influential Latino leaders. The award was in recognition of her work at DVCH—the organization is the largest healthcare provider for North Philadelphia’s Latino community—as well as her volunteer efforts with Latina girls and young women.
“I speak to them about having a goal and the choices that they make,” she says. “And I let them know that it’s okay to always know where you came from, but not let your past dictate your future.”