Manny Lopes’ ascension to the role of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s President and CEO is a story that embodies EBNHC’s mission and commitment to the community.
Nearly three decades ago Lopes, who grew up in Jeffries Point, joined the health center as an 18-year-old researcher, working with the late Dr. Jim Taylor on a blood pressure study. In the ensuing years, Lopes went on to hold positions in the Human Resource and Operations Departments. Lopes later served as the Health Center’s Vice President and Chief Information Officer, providing organizational vision and leadership with an eye for technology and collaborative innovation.
So it came as no surprise when Lopes took over the helm as CEO of EBNHC after his mentor Jack Cradock retired in 2012. Lopes has served as CEO of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center since then and as its president since 2015.
However, the community was shocked when news broke last week that Lopes, who has in many ways become the face of EBNHC, will leave the Health Center to become Executive Vice President of Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts.
“It’s definitely bittersweet but it’s a good opportunity,” said Lopes, who has served as Director of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Board as well as Chair of the Blue Cross Foundation. “It has been a little more than 28 years in total at the Health Center, more than half my life, and there have been so many good memories and so many great milestones.”
When Lopes started he was honored to work as a research assistant for Dr. Taylor.
“Getting a chance to get to know him, meet him and have him as a mentor was just incredible,” said Lopes. “Then moving into different roles at the Health Center, getting the opportunity to meet all the great people that work here and to witness the commitment of the organization to our mission and the people we serve has been amazing. I have had a lot of great mentors that were just amazing leaders who were really passionate about the work and taught me a lot. Then I was blessed to have a board that gave me the opportunity to be in this role as President CEO and had the faith and trust that I could do this work and take the organization even further from where Jack (Craddock) and Jim (Taylor) brought it was truly humbling.”
This past year with the COVID pandemic was tough on everyone, especially those in the healthcare industry and the only regret Lopes said he has is leaving before the virus was eradicated. However, Lopes said he is so proud of the work the EBNHC staff has done over the course of the pandemic.
“I just wish it was pretty much over by now but there’s still some work to do,” said Lopes. “But it has been great to have a senior team and the entire staff who really supported me along the way and accomplished all the great things we’ve accomplished in the past year with our COVID response. This past year and a half, when our community needed us the most I think we really stepped up and really helped our community.”
In 2018, Lopes added another career milestone to his resume when former Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced the appointment of Lopes as the Chair of Boston’s Board of Health. The Board of Health is the seven-member governing body that oversees the work of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). Lopes succeeds Francis Doyle, who stepped down in October from the Board to assume a leadership role within the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
As for leaving Eastie, a place he has called home and a place he has worked every day for 28 years, Lopes said he will still be around.
“Eastie is home for me in many different ways and it will continue to be my home,” said Lopes. “I will still have the same passion and love for the community and hopefully through Blue Cross I can continue to find ways to make sure that Eastie continues to have a voice. I’ll still be around in a different capacity attending events. I still have family that lives here. I still get my health care here, my family still gets their health care here and we still do a lot of our activities here in East Boston from shopping to eating. As the saying goes, “You can take the guy out of Eastie but you can’t take the Eastie out of the guy.”
On behalf of the EBNHC Board of Directors, Chairwoman Rita Sorrento said, “I would like to thank Manny Lopes for his years of service and dedication to EBNHC. We will work closely with him to ensure a smooth transition before his departure on October 29, 2021. We have begun the process to identify a new CEO and will be appointing an interim CEO in the coming weeks. Thanks to the hard work of our leadership team and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, EBNHC is in a strong position. We are now serving 120,000 patients and employ 1,400 dedicated staff members, many of whom come from the communities we serve. We have proven to be a leader in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, providing equitable and accessible care including more than 150,000 tests and more than 100,000 doses of the vaccine to community members. Above all, for more than 50 years we have prioritized health equity for those in our community and we remain committed to that mission.”