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Cynthia Finch Co-Founder of The Faith Leaders Initiative, Spear-headed 40,000+ Minority Vaccination
Photo courtesy of Robin Whitmore

Cynthia Finch Co-Founder of The Faith Leaders Initiative, Spear-headed 40,000+ Minority Vaccination
By Vivian Shipe, AM Staff Reporter - September 2021

Newport-born, Cynthia Finch is winning the fight in the war to vaccinate the African American population of Knoxville and surrounding counties. From the day that the governor announced that churches could go back into their sanctuaries in May of 2020 during the height of the first covid-19 surge, Finch has been on the offense to save lives. Knowing that it was too soon to return as African Americans were being adversely affected by the virus,

Finch went to the vice mayor, Gwen McKenzie and together they formed the Faith Leaders Church Initiative, a group of ministers and community leaders that began to meet every Thursday from 5 pm to 6 pm to educate the churches about the dangers of covid.  The group which still meets every Thursday has now grown from 40 on the first call to sometimes as many as 180 from all over the nation.

As the pandemic progressed, the Initiative, under the guidance of Ms. Finch, began to develop partnerships, supplying churches with thermometers, and cleaning supplies from area businesses. Once the vaccine was developed, she was the first in the Black community to get her vaccine. Finch then partnered with Dr. Keith Gray, Chief Medical Officer at the University of Tennessee hospital, and began holding vaccine clinics in the black communities at one point vaccinating over 900 in one day.

Partnerships with the Knoxville Health Department and area pharmacist have continued to grow and the numbers vaccinated and educated thru “Cynthia’s List” and her Vac Impact education program are now approaching over 80,000. Vaccine clinics are now being held weekly and she has begun a concentrated effort to vaccinate the children who are now the ones being adversely affected as school opens. As the CDC began talking of the need for a booster, The Faith Leaders Initiative once again is in the forefront and has already begun offering boosters of Moderna and Pfizer to those with immune systems that may be compromised.

Cynthia Finch and her vision has not gone unnoticed. She was a featured speaker about the vaccine clinics on the international radio station BBC back in the winter, she has been recognized as a 2021 Health Care Hero by the Knoxville News Sentinel and has been the featured speaker on countless zoom meetings across the nation as a subject matter expert on COVID-19.

When she stood on the steps of the Jacobs Building surrounded by health care professionals she said, “We are in a war”. “We will not be left behind”. She meant it