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There’s an obvious connection between the George Edgecomb Society and Tampa’s George Edgecomb Bar Association (GEBA) – both are named in honor of the late George Edgecomb, Hillsborough County’s first Black judge.

But there’s another important tie between the two groups. They’re working closely together to fight health disparities and improve cancer care and research at Moffitt Cancer Center.

In fact, the connections between the two groups are so strong that attorney Travis J. Coy says, “you can almost look at it as divine intervention.”

Coy is a past president of GEBA, a professional and community service organization composed mostly of Black attorneys.

Coy’s late wife, Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy, also was an attorney and served as president of GEBA. During her presidency, she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and began receiving treatment at Moffitt. Nicknamed “Tenacious Theresa” because of her impassioned courtroom advocacy, she approached cancer with the same vigor.

“My wife decided at the very beginning not to keep this private but to create awareness and turn it into inspiration for others,” Travis Coy said recently.

She not only shared her story, she also worked closely in 2018 with Lanse Scriven, a past GEBA president and founding member of the George Edgecomb Society and B. Lee Green, PhD, then Vice President of Moffitt Diversity, along with the GES committee. Thanks to their work, GEBA raised more than $92,000 for the George Edgecomb Society to fund health disparities research.

Sadly, Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy died last year. But Coy and GEBA members believe strongly that the work she started must continue. Through social media and other awareness efforts, GEBA is encouraging people to contribute in Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy’s honor to cancer research at Moffitt.

Both organizations are committed to fighting health disparities, especially because several cancers disproportionately affect Black people. According to the National Cancer Institute, Black men are more than twice as likely to die of both prostate cancer and stomach cancer compared to white men. Black women often have more aggressive forms of breast cancer are much more likely than white women to die.

Edgecomb himself died of leukemia at age 33, in 1976.

Coy said that legacy is an important part of GEBA’s efforts to raise money for cancer research and prevention, but it’s also about increasing awareness and access to care. Ultimately, he said, that will save lives.

“I don’t want anyone else to suffer what myself and my son have suffered,” he said.