It's about paying it forward.
That's what local doctors said of their plans to serve the public at this weekend's free Hamilton County Minority Health Fair. The 15th annual fair will be held Saturday in Eastgate Town Center off Brainerd Road from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. On-site registration will be available for those unable to pre-register.
Damieon Brown, a podiatrist working in Jasper and Cleveland, Tenn., said he's been providing his services to the health fair for about five years.
"I keep coming back because I feel like it's my obligation to give back to the community," he said. "You know that saying, 'To whom much is given, much is required'? I give back because I've had a lot of people give to me."
Brown said he had a dentist who didn't charge him while he was in medical school.
"I would always try to inquire about my bill," he said, "and he would always tell me, 'Don't worry about it. Whenever you make it, you make sure you give back.'"
So he has. Brown is one of many doctors who donate their time and services to members of the community who may not have access to regular health care due to financial constraints or other reasons.
"There was one individual that I saw at the health fair who had no insurance," said Michael Geer, a cardiologist working in Chattanooga. "He came with severely elevated blood pressure, and we saw him several times after in my office and took care of his blood pressure."
Geer was one of the doctors who organized the health fair in its infancy. He said he keeps coming back to offer his services each year because he sees the major disparities within minority communities.
"You can't always care for those kind of patients in the hospital," he said. "There was a need to take care of the patients on an outpatient and preventative level."
Chris Ramsey, president of the Southeast Tennessee Health Consortium, said about 5,000 people attended last year's health fair, and he expects to have that many if not more again this year.
"It grows every year," he said. "I've not heard of another free health fair this size in this region."
Ramsey said there will be 115 screening and educational vendors this year providing services for children and adults. Those vendors include the regular medical stations, mobile clinics, educational vendors and NAACP representatives to help people register to vote. Hamilton County's drug take-back program also will be there to help people properly dispose of expired medications.
Medical services on offer will include mammograms, prostate exams, blood pressure readings, dental exams and more. Entertainment will be provided, from watching people line dance to participating in door prizes. People will also be present to help patients see if they're eligible for certain types of insurance or other services.
Ramsey said that, despite its name, the Hamilton County Minority Health Fair is open to all residents in Hamilton County and surrounding areas from all walks of life.
"We find a number of people come because it's in a relaxed environment," he said. "It's kind of a festival, kind of a family reunion-type atmosphere, kind of less intimidating versus going to a doctor's office or hospital."
Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.