Making a Difference
David Romero, EMBA ’06, moved his
career aspirations from fine arts
administration to mental health
management, finding creativity is a
core component of both disciplines.
Executive MBA ’06
Regional Director, CRC Health Group’s Eating Disorder and Adult Weight Management Programs
By Liz Warren-Pederson
David Romero earned his undergraduate degree in humanities, and expected to go into arts administration. After a stint managing an art gallery in Scottsdale, he returned to school to earn his graduate degree, but instead of continuing on the arts administration path, changed gears and looked into counseling.
It would prove to be a fortuitous shift: after earning his master’s in counseling psychology at Arizona State University, he began his 25-year career as a mental health professional, initially as an administrator with the employee assistance program with St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center. From there, Romero joined America West Airlines (now US Airways) as director of its employee assistance program.
“That was my first exposure to eating disorders,” he said. “When I first joined America West, height and weight requirements for flight attendants were still in place. I began to see what eating disorders look like — these are complex, multilayered disorders."
After nine years with America West, he left to operate his own consulting practice serving the legal community and mental health agencies in Maricopa County. Then in 2004, he joined West Yavapai Guidance Clinic in Prescott, the largest provider of in-patient and out-patient public substance abuse programs in Northern Arizona, as the substance abuse program manager.
“That was when I began thinking about getting an MBA,” he said. “In this industry, the business world and the clinical world do not always mesh well together, and I saw a lot of centers struggle to make strong marketing and fiscal/financial decisions.” At the same time, the health care industry has been undergoing significant changes. “I thought a business background would be useful and saw an opportunity to bring a different perspective to the table.”
Most recently, in December, he joined the nation’s largest provider of behavioral health services, CRC Health Group, as regional director of the company’s eating disorder and adult weight management programs. The program at Structure House, one of the units that he is responsible for, was just named one of the "Best Diet Programs in the United States" by MSN.
“CRC is an established company with the resources to make a significant impact on the lives of many individuals and families,” said Romero. “In this field, we’re not just treating the individual, but someone’s sister, aunt, mother... It’s rewarding to work for an organization that makes a difference in people’s lives.”
The role has allowed him to bridge the business world and the clinical world, something he didn’t anticipate early in his college education. “I thought that one day, I’d be administering a fine arts center,” he said. “But I haven’t left the creative side behind. There’s a lot of creativity in the world of therapy; you’re looking at the situation with the client and trying to problem-solve. I’m not in direct practice anymore, but creativity is essentially part of the therapeutic process: you take a situation and try to reframe it for the client.”
Creativity is also a part of the approach he brings to his role in CRC Health Group. “We have a lot of exciting, cutting-edge programs and bringing them together is a priority," said Romero. "I aim to be the catalyst in this exchange of information, as well as maximize each program’s presence in their community and nationally.”