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From Cleveland to Uganda to the White House

Crystal FranklinCrystal Franklin has long had a passion for helping people and improving her community. That drive has led to a highly successful career as a public health advocate and educator, which has literally taken her around the world. And she credits the encouragement she got at Cleveland State University as a key factor in her career path.

“I was in the master’s in education program at CSU and really did not know what I wanted to focus on. I knew I wanted to give back to my community but wasn’t sure how,” Franklin says. “Several faculty members in the program suggested I look at community health and how education and communication could be used to improve wellness and reduce incidence of diseases such as AIDS. It just clicked for me as the right path to take.”

Her CSU mentors encouraged Franklin to investigate Case Western’s Ph.D program in epidemiology which she enrolled in following completion of her degree at CSU. Wanting to have hands-on experience in the field Franklin applied to and was accepted for a fellowship to work with tuberculosis and HIV patients in Uganda.

“Five months after starting at Case I was on a plane to Uganda,” Franklin adds. “It was a whirlwind but also an amazing experience that showed me how important education and knowledge are to combatting disease. The best medicine and prevention methods in the world only work if people are informed about how to use them properly.”

Franklin would later serve as a public health researcher at the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, while continuing to assist in addressing AIDS-related health issues around the world. This included participating in the 2004 World AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand and serving as a Peace Corp volunteer in Guyana, working with people living with HIV/AIDS.

“There is still a significant stigma in Guyana towards people with AIDS and these individuals are often isolated and feel very alone,” Franklin notes. “My team sought to improve understanding of the disease, and create a community of support that could improve wellness and personal connectivity.”

Most recently, Franklin was selected to serve as a delegate to the White House’s United State of Women Summit. The conference, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, brought together leading experts and advocates from across the nation to address challenges and opportunities in the areas of economic empowerment, health and wellness, educational opportunity, violence against women, entrepreneurship and innovation, and leadership and civic engagement. Franklin participated in the session on women and girls in science hosted by NASA, assisting in developing ideas and policy proposals designed to improve participation and gender equity in STEM disciplines.

“The conference was an amazing experience and gave me tremendous insights into both the issues facing women in America and the avenues available to improve access to care, educational opportunity and pay equity,” Franklin says.

Looking back on her professional and personal journey, Franklin argues that everyone should follow their passion and not let life or negative experiences inhibit their efforts to succeed and be a positive force.

“Everyone has the ability to be successful and make a difference. I am living proof.”