Dana Franklin is the Manager of Research at CCHE. She was born and raised in Chicago, then went to college at Howard University in Washington, DC, where she majored in political science and business administration. Her focus within political science was international law, and she concentrated on HIV in women in sub-Saharan Africa. She then went to the University of Michigan for her Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology. Dana’s experience with and interest in healthcare began in graduate school when she started interacting with clinicians and working with professors in medical schools. At this time, Dana volunteered as a HIV test counselor, working with students and anyone in the area who received healthcare services on campus. Though initially intending to pursue law, due to her focus in her undergraduate program, she decided that she was interested in HIV through epidemiology once she started working with STIs.
Before coming to CCHE, Dana worked at the genomes branch of the NIH. She was involved in grant work, giving out funding to pharmaceutical companies that were looking for alternative uses for drugs. However, she plans on staying in the epidemiology field. Dana has been at CCHE for nearly a year and a half and enjoys working more hands-on with clients. As the manager of research, she keeps track of many different projects, acting as the liaison between the PIs and the staff. She makes sure that the projects have adequate staffing and that the IRB has what they need, as well as doing the data analysis plans and editing the protocols. Dana is currently working on the N2 project, which tracks how people navigate their social and sexual networks through a GPS device. A particular advantage of this method is that people can recruit others from their networks into the study. According to her, this research method is “more so real-time looking at where people are actually going and then, with that, getting their particular networks involved as well.”
Dana’s visions for CCHE’s directions include continuing to emphasize client-centered work and expanding research to focus on cisgender women, as a potentially interesting topic to tackle. She greatly enjoys the social events that happen at the end of every other month, including tie-dye, barbecues, and more.
Written by Maya Osman-Krinsky
Interview by Simatul Rashid (Transcript Follows)
Simatul: Hi, my name is Simatul Rashid. I am a rising third year at UChicago interested in pursuing a career in medicine. I have been working at the CCHE for about a year now. This interview will be super informal and is meant for a way to get to know you and your involvement with CCHE.
Simatul: Before we delve into your involvement with CCHE, I would love to learn a little bit about your background. Where are you from? Where did you go to college? What did you study? Anything you think is relevant.
- Dana: I am from Chicago, born and raised in the city. I went to college in Howard University in Washington DC. Then I went to University of Michigan for my Masters in public health and epidemiology. I worked for about a decade. Then I moved back this way, so I was out east then I moved west. In college, I majored in political science and business administration. Then in graduate school, it was epidemiology.
Simatul: So do you think you primarily received experience working in the healthcare field in grad school?
- Dana I definitely got experience with healthcare in grad school. That was when I started interacting with clinicians and working with people in medical schools, professors and that was when my focus shifted and I became interested in healthcare.
Simatul: What made you interested in epidemiology and public health?
- Dana: I had a change of heart. After undergrad, I took some time off to work between graduate school and undergraduate school. While I was working I had a change of heart because some personal things happened. I decided to pursue healthcare instead of law.
Simatul: Why exactly are you interested in epidemiology and particularly about HIV?
- Dana: In graduate school, I volunteered as a HIV test counselor, so I worked with students and anyone in the area who received healthcare services in the campus. Once I started working with HIV and STI, I decided that I was interested in HIV and epidemiology.
Simatul What other work have you been involved with other than HIV?
- Dana: I have done a mix of things. When I was at NIH, I was in the genomes branch. After that I worked more so in the grant side not the receiving side but the side giving out funding. So I also worked in giving out million-dollar grants to pharmaceutical companies that were looking for alternative uses for drugs.
In undergrad I studied political science and my focus was international law. I was focusing on sub Saharan Africa pertaining to women who had HIV although with a different focus. I was looking at it from a perspective of law.
Simatul: Do you plan on to staying in epidemiology?
- Dana I think epidemiology is really interesting. I definitely plan on staying in the epidemiology field.
Simatul: I would love to learn about how you become involved with CCHE?
- Dana: I applied online. I saw the job posting online and then Becca reached out to me and that was that from there. I probably saw it on LinkedIn or something and it was posted so I applied. I have been here for about a year and four months.
Simatul: How do you like working here?
- Dana: I like working at CCHE. It’s different from what I used to do. I was working in the government for a little bit. Now it’s definitely more hands on with the clients. We see them every day and interact with them and that was something that I wanted to do or get back to rather.
Simatul: Did you make the transition from NIH to working here to work more closely in a client based environment?
- Dana No that was just more of a relocation thing. I moved from DC to Chicago.
Simatul: What is your role in CCHE?
- Dana: As the manager, there’s a lot of different projects going on. I am kind of the liaison between the PIs and the staff. I make sure that the projects have adequate staffing on them. I make sure IRB has what they need. I answer those and make sure that the documents are up to date. I do the data analysis plan and I edit the protocols. When PIs ask what’s going on in their studies, I am responsible for those as well.
Simatul: Is there a project that you are currently working on that is particularly exciting?
- Dana I think the N2 project is interesting. It’s tracking how people navigate their social and sexual networks through a GPS device. I think that’s a really interesting way to conduct research as opposed to you know just collecting stuff and reporting it in a survey. This is more so real time looking at where people are actually going and then with that getting their particular networks involved as well. They can recruit people into the study. That’s a network that the organization might not have been able to tap into had they not have this particular study design. I think It’s also interesting to see the GPS maps to see where people are traveling.
Simatul: What have you learned from working at CCHE?
- Dana: That’s a good question. I have learned that the organization is really committed to its mission and making sure that the work remains client centered all the time.
Simatul: In the faculty description page, it states that previously you were involved with clinical research whereas now you have a more managerial position. Do you miss being involved in clinical research?
- Dana: I have worked as a researcher but I haven’t done anything clinical as in nursing. The volunteer position was when I had the most interaction with clients. I have worked in other nonprofits and interacted with clients as well but that particular volunteer position made me realize that I wanted to continue working in a space where I got to interact with the people that I was impacting.
Simatul What are some challenges do you think that continually surface within the research that you are involved with?
- Dana: I think no two days are the same. That can be perceived as challenging. There is a lot going on and you have to be flexible. You have to be willing to step in. You also need to build rapport with colleagues and staff because when everyone has a good relationship, things work smoothly.
Simatul: Is there something new you would want to implement at CCHE or even change anything?
- Dana: I think it would be great if CCHE would expand their research focus to women, cis women. That would be a very interesting topic to broach. Right now the focus is on LGBTQ population and transgender population. That is just where the organization wants to focus for now.
Simatul: Is there anything other than work that you really like at CCHE.
- Dana: The social events are great. After the end of every other month, the staff plans different types of activities. Once Tamika and I planned tie dye shirts. More recently, Emily and Lee did something for pride. They had bbq at the beach. Those events are really fun because you never know what’s going to happen.
Simatul: Do you like the small work environment that CCHE provides?
- Dana: Small working environment is helpful because you get to know everyone. It goes back to what I was saying earlier. It’s easy to build rapport with your colleagues in a smaller organization.
Simatul: Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any closing remarks?
- Dana: I don’t think so. I can’t think of anything (chuckle).