Mia-RamirezMia Ramirez found her calling in Chile.

The Colorado Springs native traveled there to work for a nonprofit micro-lending agency between receiving an undergraduate degree in Denver and heading to Boston for graduate school.

“We were providing mini loans to alleviate poverty in Chile. When working there I realized I wanted to go into public health,” she said. “It just clicked in me.”

Ramirez received a master’s degree from Boston University and, following a stint working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, she got homesick.

“None of my family had moved away [from Colorado Springs],” she said.

Ramirez took over the grants program for Kaiser Permanente in Southern Colorado in 2011, and in February, she began in her new position with The Colorado Trust, where she’s charged with advancing health equity in Southern Colorado.

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C.J. Moore, public affairs director at Kaiser Permanente, Southern Colorado, nominated Ramirez.

“She is the absolute epitome of a Rising Star,” Moore said. “She’s one of those people who, when you meet her, you also get her. And you can call on her day and night, and she would do her best to help. She’s such an asset to this town. We’re fortunate someone like her chose to come back here.”

Ramirez said some of her proudest professional moments were achieved while working with Kaiser Permanente.

“When I came on board, [Kaiser’s] annual investment [in Southern Colorado] was pretty minimal — about $150,000. When I left, it was about $1.5 million. It makes a difference when you have someone on the ground working within the community.”

Ramirez said The Colorado Trust hired her not so much because of her public health background, but because of her long history in Colorado Springs.

“Foundations like to look at data sets and decide they need to work on this or that,” she said. “But when you talk to neighbors and residents, they’re not worried about big data. They’re worried but day-to-day issues.”

Moore said, after five years with Kaiser, The Colorado Trust “stole her away.”

Will Moore try to steal her back?

“Damn straight!” she said. “We’ll give her some time to get her feet on the ground and learn a few things. But if I have anything to do with it…”

— Bryan Grossman