Thrive by IU Health

December 07, 2023

Healthcare and Hip Hop: He’s a Pacers dancer and community partner

Healthcare and Hip Hop: He’s a Pacers dancer and community partner

He met a man who needed help beyond healthcare, Ray Rice extended Hoosier hospitality.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Writer,

Ray Rice started his role with IU Health on August 28th - the day of his 26th birthday. A native of Chicago, it wasn’t his first introduction to Indiana.

Rice attended Indiana University Bloomington where he majored in community health. He was part of the Group Scholars Program, created as a way to increase college attendance among first-generation, and underrepresented students at IU. His focus was on human development and family studies and he was especially interested in health disparities.

His first job out of college was working as a human health educator as part of a COVID team.

“Since my first college class in health disparities I’ve always thought there was more I could do with health education and prevention of disparities,” said Rice. As a community health specialist with IU Health, Rice works with a team focused on community outreach and engagement. Special projects are targeted at areas of the city where there are the greatest needs for education, detection, and prevention. Some of those needs include blood pressure checks, cholesterol and diabetes screenings.

Rice plays an integral role in staffing those screenings at local barbershops - where African American men are the primary clients. In the United States, serious complications of heart disease are 23 percent higher among the African American population compared to the white population. In response to a growing need, IU Health offers free screenings at community barbershops.

Following one screening, Rice accompanied IU Health social worker, Danielle McClain, to a home visit. As part of The Indianapolis Health Equity, Access, outReach and Treatment (iHeart) program, community health workers offer free services to those in need. A focus is on blood pressure management and support, connecting people to community resources, and education and support.

As he talked to the client, Rice learned that the man was trying to rebuild his life after a series of unfortunate events. Rice learned that one of the man’s challenges was a two-hour commute to his job. He connected the man to IU Health’s Mosaic Center for Work, Life + Learning. The community-based program helps attract talent to the healthcare industry and also works to improve access to promising jobs throughout the state. After several contacts with the gentleman, Rice was able to connect him to resources to help him with his career path and eventual hiring.

“It’s those interactions that make our community health and outreach so important. Even if I have one conversation with one individual, it makes me believe in what I'm doing and how meaningful it is,” said Rice.

Outside of his job, Rice is part of the hip hop dances for the Indiana Fever and Pacers. He started hip hop as a student at IU and joined the African American Dance Company.

“That took my dance to a whole new level and bigger stages,” he said. One of those stages was in New York City performing with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Ailey is known for his affiliation with platforms nurturing Black artists and encouraging their African American self-expression through dance.