Richard Fiske

Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Fiske’s impressive career began at Johnson & Johnson before he served in the Vietnam War. Upon returning home, he joined the Acquisition and Development department at American Medical International serving 4 years, followed by 3 years with National Medical Enterprises, 10 years with Continental Medical Systems, and 9 years with Tenet Healthcare as VP of Acquisition and Development. As of January 2004, he became CEO and Co-Founder of Everest Health Partners, a healthcare marketing and consulting organization.

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Mr. Fiske obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration as well as his Master’s degree in Marketing at Lewis and Clark College.

Mr. Fiske enjoys baseball, flying and mountain climbing, which lead him to accomplishing Mount Everest in 1999 and Mount Kilimanjaro in 2010. Mr. Fiske presently resides in Dallas, Texas, traveling often as a registered speaker for Stonecroft Ministries as well as several Fortune 500 companies.

Erik de Vries

Co-Founder & Principal

As the real estate principal of Cobalt Medical Development, Mr. de Vries manages all strategy, financing, investments, new business and operations. Recently, Mr. de Vries served as VP of Business Development at Rainier Medical Investments, LLC, managing the company’s capital platforms, fundraising strategies and new business real estate development.

Some of Mr. de Vries equity accomplishments at Rainier include the acquisition of Baylor Grapevine medical office building and ambulatory surgery center, an 84,000 sq. ft. MOB physically attached to THR Presbyterian Hospital of Flower Mound, Texas, a Reliant Healthcare 60 bed IRF in South Austin, and the management of a $10MM fund exclusively for Physicians. Prior to Rainier, Mr. de Vries managed a healthcare development team that created 50 -75 bed post-acute care inpatient rehabilitation and skilled nursing hospitals throughout Texas averaging 65,000 square feet with real estate transaction costs that totaled over $100MM.

Peter Cacciapaglia

SVP Design & Construction

With over 30 years of experience in architecture and project delivery, Mr. Cacciapaglia is responsible for managing all aspects of project development, including planning, equipment, design, construction, and opening of new healthcare facilities.

Previously, Mr. Cacciapaglia served as Director of Hospital Projects at MedCath Corporation, where he managed the development of eight hospitals nationwide, totaling more than $350 million. In this key project leadership role, he maintained project budgets and schedules and protected stakeholders’ interests throughout the entire development process.

Mr. Cacciapaglia is a registered architect and received his Bachelor of Environmental Design from the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University.

M. Christian Cullum

VP of Development

Mr. Cullum works in numerous capacities, helping to manage all Cobalt developments, financing, investor relations, and operations. Prior to Cobalt, Mr. Cullum worked for five years as VP & Director of Underwriting at EDGE Realty Capital Markets, where he played a dual role leading the financial underwriting of all real estate assets for the capital markets team, as well as helping to develop new business and working with clients and investors. Prior to EDGE, Mr. Cullum worked at Rainier Capital Management, a $1.5BB boutique real estate investment bank, where he managed similar responsibilities on the acquisitions and development side of the business.

Mr. Cullum spent most of his time at Rainier working with Rainier Medical Investments, which primarily acquired and developed high-end MOBs and ASCs on the campus of major system hospitals.
Before returning home to Dallas to help manage his family’s fourth-generation construction company and complete his MBA, Mr. Cullum worked for seven years in the political and national security arenas in Washington, DC. Mr. Cullum received his undergraduate degree in international politics from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and he received his MBA in finance and real estate from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas. Mr. Cullum is licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission.

Cobalt Rehabilitation Hospitals

Bob Smith

Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Smith is a health care executive with a varied background in complex teaching, urban and rural health care settings. Before joining Cobalt, Mr. Smith served as Interim CEO of Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas. Prior to that, Mr. Smith served as Senior VP of the Central Region of Tenet Healthcare from 2003 to 2011, where he was responsible for 21 acute care facilities across five states. From 2000-2002, he managed multi-state regions for Universal Health Services and served as CEO of Clarent Hospital Corporation in Houston. Mr. Smith also served as VP of Division Operations for CHRISTUS Health in Dallas from June 1995 to March 2000 and held a variety of leadership positions at National Medical Enterprises from 1984 to 1995, as well as Methodist Hospitals of Dallas from 1979 to 1981. Mr. Smith holds a Master of Health Administration Degree from Washington University School of Medicine and a Bachelor of Science Degree in psychology from the University of Missouri. He completed an administrative residency at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, and in 2011, he was the recipient of the Texas Hospital Association’s Earl M. Collier Award for Distinguished Health Care Administration, the highest award bestowed by the organization.

Jim Ransom

Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Ransom serves as Chief Operating Officer for Cobalt. Prior to Cobalt, Mr. Ransom served as Chief Executive Officer of a rehabilitation hospital in the DFW area for a large rehabilitation system. Mr. Ransom has over 19 years of experience in the healthcare industry. He has held various positions including Chief Executive Officer, Director of Operations, Regional Controller, Division Chief Financial Officer and Chief Financial Officer. His expertise is in inpatient hospital management, turn-around financial management, expense management and financial improvement. He is an Associate of the American College of Healthcare Executives. Mr. Ransom has a Bachelor Degree in Accounting from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama.

Brent Upchurch

Executive Vice President of Finance

Having recently joined the Cobalt team, Brent Upchurch will be leading the financial and accounting team. Prior to Cobalt, Mr. Upchurch served as CFO at Landmark Hospitals, helping lead them to record profits through significant growth in a multi-state operation. Before Landmark, he was part of a senior team that grew Reliant Rehabilitation Partners to 7 hospitals and helped successfully sell to Private Equity.

Mr. Upchurch has a strong financial background, having spent many years in Banking and Finance in addition to healthcare. He has financed diverse healthcare facilities, including Surgery Centers, Hospitals, Imaging Centers, Post Acute Hospitals. He is experienced leading many different areas of finance, including financial operations, revenue cycle, accounting, legal, and IT.

Ernie Escobedo


Mr. Escobedo moved to Dallas in 2014 from California with over 20 years of healthcare accounting experience. He started his career as a controller with Reliant Hospital Partners in 2014 and joined Cobalt in 2016. Mr. Escobedo’s experience ranges from emergency room accounting, acute care hospitals, to rehabilitation hospitals. He’s done Accounts Payable, Payroll, Fixed Assets, and General Ledger and has 10 years of supervisory/management experience.

Mr. Escobedo earned his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting in California and plans to further his education, pursing his Master’s degree in the near future.

Brenda Steffy

Director Revenue Cycle Management

Ms. Brenda Steffy is responsible for corporate revenue cycle and billing, which optimizes the entire continuum of care and satisfaction for the Cobalt patient. Her skillful career began over 30 years ago as a billing supervisor at Cook Children’s Medical Center, Ft. Worth’s only children’s hospital. From there, she advanced her career and knowledge by specializing in and managing admissions, billing, and maintaining revenue cycles for rehabilitation, psychiatric, acute-care hospitals, nursing homes, and private practice. Her superior knowledge of insurance plans and the laws, along with her tenacity to pursue complete, accurate and timely payments, has garnered first-class outcomes. Ms. Steffy’s dedication to revenue cycle management and educating and leading teams has made a positive impact on the hospital corporations and multiple physician practices she has represented.

Natashé Washington

Accounts Payable Manager

Ms. Washington manages all accounts payable for Cobalt Rehabilitation Hospitals. She has 13 years of healthcare and accounts payable experience, previously having worked for Reliant Hospital Partners, HealthSouth, Medical Clinic of North Texas, and Financial Resource Group. She brings years of experience working on multiple-site accounts, processing payroll, managing various vendor relationships, and assisting with special accounting projects. Ms. Washington has strong accounts payable and general accounting related skills.

Steve Puterbaugh

Chief Human Resources Officer

Mr. Puterbaugh, an experienced HR leader with both national and international success, joined the Cobalt team in 2015 as Chief Human Resources Officer. In his current role, he works in close partnership with the executive management teams at the corporate and hospital facilities to develop and execute a robust talent brand strategy including talent acquisition and engagement, performance management, employee relations, succession planning, compensation and benefits, policy and compliance. Throughout his 35+ year career, Mr. Puterbaugh has focused on implementing innovative human resource strategy and initiatives in large, mid and small cap companies as well as start-ups and early stage venues in the retail, technology and logistics industries. Prior to joining the Cobalt team, his roles have included Chief Human Resources Executive, Global People Leader, and Vice President of Human Resources. Mr. Puterbaugh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Ferris State University in Michigan.