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Staff file photo / Chris Ramsey in 2017 with Naomi Williams, Reagan Williams and Aaron Williams at a Tech Town pop-up event at the Bessie Smith Hall.

In every conversation he has about efforts to combat COVID-19 through education and health outreach, LaDarius Price hears the voice of his late friend and mentor Chris Ramsey.

"I still have the text messages in my phone — he always called himself Batman and I was Robin when it came to us fighting for our community and helping our people get what they need," says Price, outreach coordinator for Cempa Community Care. "I still hear his voice at a lot of the tables I sit at, and I have been afforded the opportunity to sit at those tables because of him."

Ramsey died of COVID-19 in January. He was 54 years old, and a tireless advocate for health equity and education for underserved and at-risk communities, Price says.

Price and Ramsey met through their work on the Faith-Based Health and Wellness Council. The group formed in 2018 to partner with churches to solve health disparities through collaboration, sharing best practices, education, developing community initiatives and programs, and conducting an annual health and wellness symposium.

Chris Ramsey

Ramsey graduated from Brainerd High School in 1984, received his bachelor of business administration from Austin Peay State University in 1988 and his master of business administration from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1990. He worked at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee for 24 years and served as the president and CEO of Tech Town Foundation. Ramsey started an insurance agency to help people gain access to health care, and he and business partner LaQuentin Jenkins founded a company to help provide PPE supplies during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was a member of the Regional Health Council and president of the Southeast Tennessee Health Consortium, which started the Hamilton County Minority Health Fair in 2002 — one of the community’s largest and most-comprehensive annual health outreach events.

At the time, Black Hamilton County residents were dying from diabetes at a rate 2.7 times higher than that of white people, heart disease at 1.2 times higher, and kidney disease at 3.6 times higher. Those disparities remain, and those same conditions greatly increase the risk of dying from COVID-19.

"Chris was a fighter," Price says. "He fought for health equity. In Chattanooga, we have a serious health equity issue, that's just the reality."

He was also a role model and mentor to his neighbors and community, Price adds.

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Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Southeast Tennessee Health Consortium President Chris Ramsey spoke during a meeting to discuss the Faith-Based Health and Wellness Council at Cempa Community Care Center in 2019. After Ramsey's death in January 2021 from COVID-19, the council was renamed in his honor.

"When I was growing up, he was this bigger-than-life figure," Price says. "He came from neighborhoods where people were not likely to succeed, and he succeeded. We looked up to him. He never forgot where he came from."

In February, the Faith-Based Health and Wellness Council was renamed the Chris Ramsey Faith-Based Health Council, a change announced by Cempa Community Care and the Southeast Tennessee Health Consortium, a nonprofit that organizes the annual minority health fair where Ramsey served as co-president.

"We want people to understand for decades to come, to understand what a giant he was," Price says. "Even though he is not here, his work goes on."

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* Champions of Health Care 2021: Michael Greer - Physician - Academic

* Take your shot: Health care and community outreach teams collaborate on vaccine efforts

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