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People in Your Neighborhood: La Jollan Rick Itzkowich donates mobile COVID-19 hospital in Mexico

La Jollan and business executive Rick Itzkowich donated $350,000 to establish a mobile COVID-19 hospital in Monclova, Mexico.
(Courtesy)

Editor’s note: The La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send an email to robert.vardon@lajollalight.com.

La Jollan Rick Itzkowich has donated $350,000 to establish a mobile COVID-19 hospital in Mexico, inspired by his late father’s propensity to help others.

Itzkowich, chief executive of Grupo MOIS, a holding company for three Mexico-based steel manufacturing firms, directed and funded the installation of the hospital in the city of Monclova in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, where the 60-bed, 11,269-square-foot temporary structure opened in early July to help manage coronavirus testing and infections.

Driven by his father’s legacy of business acumen and philanthropy, Itzkowich said he knows the value of inspiration, leaning on his upbringing and the communities he’s connected to in order to help others.

He answered questions from the Light about his recent donation and more:

This new mobile hospital in Monclova, Mexico, is intended to help manage the area's coronavirus testing and infections.
This recently opened mobile hospital in Monclova, Mexico, is intended to help manage the area’s coronavirus testing and infections.
(Courtesy)

Q. You coordinated the hospital donation as president of the Moises Itzkowich Foundation, named after your father. What does the foundation aim to do?

A. “My dad passed away in 2018. He was always passionate about education and health and he always wanted to help, primarily in Mexico (I was born in Mexico). [My sisters and I] wanted to do something that would make an impact, not just give money. Our foundation [which operates in Mexico and the United States] helps other foundations that are not very well-established by helping them with best practices and support so they can make a bigger impact. [The hospital] was an exception because of the nature of the times.”

Q. Why did you choose to donate the hospital in Monclova?

A. “We have two of our factories in that state [Coahuila]. We feel a very strong bond and responsibility to the people there.”

Q. Whom is the hospital intended to serve?

A. “Mexico has different levels of health care. One is state-run, the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS). Those services are free for citizens. IMSS runs all the hospitals; [the donated hospital] is an annex to this public system. IMSS is in charge of managing it and will run it. It gives access to anybody; it’s not a private hospital.”

Q. Why was it important to you to establish this hospital?

A. “You’re never going to be able to help everybody everywhere. Why not start out where you are? The old saying that ‘charity begins at home’ is really applicable. We’re there, in the city, we have workers with families who live there. We want to send a message to our people that we want to provide them with backing so if someone gets sick, there would be more opportunities for them to be treated. [Monclova] could use the help; there’s not that many industries there.

“I also believe the more that this gets out there, the more people will be motivated to find ways to contribute. I’m a private person like my dad, but by the same token, if you keep it quiet, if no one knows about it, you’re not motivating, encouraging or inspiring. It’s starting conversations that otherwise would not have happened. It seems to be working. If we all do a little bit, it’s going to amplify.”

Q. Aside from your work as a CEO and foundation president, you coach beginning CEOs through Vistage (a peer mentoring membership organization) and the Forbes Coaching Council. You’ve also written a book on networking, “The Referral Playbook: How to Increase Sales with Proven Networking Strategies,” the proceeds of which go to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. What inspires your entrepreneurial spirit?

A. “My maternal grandfather immigrated to Mexico from Ukraine; he came with nothing. He ended up, through a lot of hard work, ingenuity and who knows what else, building some very large businesses. My father worked for my grandfather for a while before going out on his own. I’ve grown up around entrepreneurs. I started two companies before [taking over my dad’s].

“On the flip side, my mother is a university professor. I grew up around that as well. This mix between business and academia runs very strong. ... I didn’t want to be a professor, but I liked the teaching-learning dynamic. The coaching element … it’s like I have 17 kids who have their own businesses. I can work with them, learn, get excited.

“I never could have planned any of this. It’s funny, the congruence of how these things come together. It’s fascinating.”

Q. You have dual citizenship, in the United States and Mexico. What keeps you in La Jolla?

A. “It’s a beautiful place! We’re in an incredible location. La Jolla is a great community, it’s a small community; the businesses care for each other. ... My kids [two daughters, ages 22 and 27] went to La Jolla Elementary, Muirlands [Middle], La Jolla High School. They got a great education. I feel very grateful.” ◆