Keith Helton's first words may well have been, "Say aaaaah."
"I wanted to be a doctor from the time I could talk," he says. "Pope Holliday was my pediatrician and Clif Cleaveland took care of our whole family. They cared about people and made them feel good. They were great examples I observed from a very young age."
Helton followed through, earning his medical degree at East Tennessee State in 1991. He recalls that when he came home to Chattanooga in 1995 after completing his residency, his brother-in-law, area sports legend Johnny Hennen, was critically ill.
"I took care of him for six months," Helton says. "Seeing some of the lack of communication, how fragmented it all seemed we overcame it through direct interaction, but it didn't feel quite like a team."
That experience changed the course of Helton's career. While he's continued to practice and serve in administrative roles, he has also launched multiple businesses designed to address what he sees as health care's principal flaw.
"The system is not built around the patient," he says. "None of it. What we've lost in health care is the relationship, and that's the most valuable thing.
"The people I've been able to help the most are the people with whom I've had the best relationships," Helton says. "We should always be evaluating and improving the patient experience – what the patient feels when it comes to health care."
In 2013, Helton launched One to One Health, which partners with employers that self-fund health care. The company sets up on-site wellness clinics with an eye toward improving employee health care.
One to One's partner list includes Hamilton County government, which Helton says has managed to hold its health care costs relatively steady during a seven-year partnership.
One to One also counts among its partners the Hamilton County Department of Education; the Catoosa County, Georgia, government; Chattanooga's EPB; Baylor School; Lodge Manufacturing in South Pittsburg, Tennessee; and Purdue University.
Dr. Keith Helton
* Role: Founding Chairman, One to One Health; CEO, LiveWell Chattanooga Center
* Career: In addition to being a practicing physician for the past 30 years, Helton has launched four health-care companies, including One to One Health and LiveWell Chattanooga Center. He has served on Hamilton County’s COVID-19 Task Force and as an executive vice president with Erlanger Health System.
* Personal: An East Ridge native and East Ridge High School graduate, Helton earned his undergraduate degree at UTC and his medical degree at East Tennessee State. Dr. Helton and his wife, Mary, have three grown children – Elizabeth, David and Leah.
In 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit full force, Helton opened LiveWell Center Chattanooga, the aim of which is to offer patients health care that emphasizes not only quality, but personalization and convenience.
"Say you come in and need to meet with a nutritionist," Helton explains. "We have one right here. Need an exercise program? We can get you on one right here. Orthopedic problem? We have an orthopedic surgeon right downstairs.
"We want to provide a place that has exceptional quality at the best price," Helton says.
CHAMPIONS OF HEALTH CARE 2021