Dr. Chris Rich was relentlessly dedicated to assuring top-quality care for injured student-athletes at Northwestern State and throughout central Louisiana.
Saturday in his adopted hometown of Alexandria, the man who served NSU Athletics for well over two decades will be laid to rest after a courageous fight with liver cancer.
Visitation is 10 a.m. until the 1 p.m. funeral at Calvary Baptist Church on Jackson Street, under the direction of John Kramer & Son Funeral Home.
Dr. Rich, 62, passed away at home last Saturday surrounded by his family: his wife Vickie, their three children, Jeffrey, Margaret and Stacie, and more loved ones.
He served as NSU’s director of sports medicine and head team physician from 1990-2010, and remained involved in sports medicine care for Northwestern athletes for several more years.
Last October, he was presented the Distinguished Service Award from NSU Athletics at the annual N-Club Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and though physically diminished by his illness, delivered a heartfelt set of remarks about his service to NSU and his profession.
“Number one is our priority, from my perspective, was always to be an advocate for the athlete. We did our work and had a huge group of consulting physicians. It was an enjoyable time for me.
“We had some remarkable results, a 99 percent return rate to sport (competition) for athletes we did surgery on. We did everything we could to facilitate improving sports medicine care,” he said.
Dr. Rich formed a close bond with NSU head athletic trainer Ed Evans, and the two worked shoulder-to-shoulder for 22 years.
“The rewarding part, across the board, are the relationships you build with players and coaches, and working with the athletic training staff,” said Dr. Rich. “My good friend Ed Evans, who became a fixture here, all the way through his student athletic trainers here as undergrads, we were able to instill a philosophy that they were here for the athletes and nothing else.
“Ed and I immediately discussed philosophies, and I knew where he stood from the get-go. From the outset, we made a good team. I considered him my mentor, I considered him my peer. He taught me as much about collegiate athletics as any of my training. Our relationship has been as rewarding a thing as I can think of.”
Evans retired in 2012 and his assistant, Jason Drury, was promoted to replace him. Drury initially settled in Natchitoches working for Mid-State Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Center, the Alexandria-based sports medicine firm Dr. Rich developed to serve central Louisiana.
“Dr. Rich and Ed gave me such great guidance. Working for Dr. Rich was a wonderful experience. He made sure you understood the best interests of the athlete always came first and foremost. I was lucky to have him as one of my mentors,” said Drury.
Rich, a native of San Antonio, was a three-year football letterman as an offensive lineman at LSU from 1976-78, part of the Tigers’ fabled “Root Hogs” group that helped College Football Hall of Fame running back Charles Alexander set numerous school and Southeastern Conference records. Rich was a two-time Academic All-SEC selection in 1977-78.
From 1988-2011, Dr. Rich was managing partner of Mid-State Orthopaedic. In 1990, he became NSU Athletics’ Director of Sports Medicine and Head Team Physician, a role he handled through 2010.
More recently, he served in a voluntary consulting role with NSU team physicians, the sports medicine staff and the Demons’ athletic administration, monitoring medical and health-related issues which have become impactful in intercollegiate athletics.
Dr. Rich also played a key role in promoting best practices and evidence-based medicine, as well as stewardship of financial resources related to medical care for NSU Athletics.
Under his leadership, Mid-State Orthopaedic launched an annual program providing physical exams for area high school football teams. Last year, Mid-State renamed the event in his honor as “Chris Rich High School Physical Day.”
“That’s a big part of his legacy. Dr. Rich was determined to assure that every high school football team in central Louisiana could get the proper preseason screening for its athletes,” said Drury.
His practice specialized in sports medicine, arthroscopy of the knee and shoulder, and knee reconstruction. During his tenure as the chief physician for NSU Athletics, over 500 student-athletes sustained an injury requiring surgery, with an incredible rate of return to competition of 99 percent.
During his career with Mid-State, the firm was twice (2004, 2007) designated as the top firm in Louisiana for orthopaedics by HealthGrades, the “Healthcare Quality Experts.”
Dr. Rich was inducted in the Louisiana Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame in 2005, and in 2013 received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Louisiana Orthopaedic Association.
The family requests that memorial gifts be made to the Christopher Rich Scholar Athlete Foundation in care of Red River Bank, Attention: Ann B. Silver, 1412 Centre Court Drive, Suite 101, Alexandria, LA 71301. Online condolences can be made through the KramerFunerals.com website.