Brownsville native chosen for Biden task force

Rodriguez to be part of 13-member team

Dr. Robert M. “Lucky” Rodriguez, Brownsville native and professor of emergency medicine at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, was named to President-elect Joe Biden’s 13-member coronavirus task force on Monday.

The Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board is made up exclusively of leading public health experts, who will advise Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on how to deal with the pandemic, which Biden called “one of the most important battles our administration will face.” He and Harris held a virtual meeting with Rodriguez and the other task force members Monday.

Rodriguez graduated from Harvard Medical School and currently serves as a professor of emergency medicine and chairman of clinical research at the UCSF medical school, where he works on the front line in the emergency department and ICU of two major trauma centers. He has also held important positions at Stanford University Medical Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center and Methodist Medical Center, both in Dallas, the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and the Regional Academic Health Center Campus in Harlingen.

Rodriguez has authored over 100 scientific publications and led national research teams exploring a range of topics in medicine, including the impact of the acceleration of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of front-line health care providers, and another study examining the impact of Donald Trump’s statements during his campaign and presidency on Latinos’ perceptions of safety and access to emergency care.

The study on health care providers found that the accelerated phase of the pandemic “has induced substantial workplace and home anxiety in academic (emergency medicine) physicians, and their exposure during work has had a major impact on their home lives.”

In the study on Latinos, undocumented immigrants as well as legal residents/citizens, Rodriguez’s study found a strong link between Trump’s statements and fear on the part of undocumented and legal resident/citizen Latinos about living in the United States and accessing emergency medical care.

In July 2020, when the Rio Grande Valley was getting slammed by COVID-19 cases and the hospitals were full, Rodriguez volunteered to help with the critical surge in his hometown.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, who has known Rodriguez since kindergarten, said he was glad to learn his friend had been tapped for the Biden-Harris task force, adding that an immediate and robust response to the pandemic is vastly important.

“I’m extremely proud that President-elect Biden has included my childhood classmate … to his team’s COVID task force,” Vela said. “Dr. Rodriguez’s credentials speak for themselves.”

Biden, who throughout his campaign criticized Trump’s response to the pandemic, said “I will be informed by science and by experts” in his administration’s handling of the crisis.

“The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections, ensuring vaccines are safe, effective and distributed efficiently, equitably and free, and protecting at-risk populations,” he said.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com