Name: Natalie Crawford | PHD in Epidemiology

Age:  28

Everyday minorities are hoping and searching for someone to fight the many disparities that our communities face. It is always refreshing when you meet someone who has chosen to step up to the plate and be one of our many heroes. Natalie Crawford works everyday to help the disadvantaged population try to improve health disparities, the area that many of us take for granted.

Natalie recently received her PHD in Epidemiology from Columbia University. She has been working at Columbia for the past nine months and before that worked at the New York Academy for Medicine. She directs about four federally founded studies that look at social prophecies that influence drug use amongst illicit drug users, specifically those disproportionally disadvantaged by HIV, focusing on black and Latino drug users.

One of the largest studies she has done is across the four boroughs, going to pharmacies and doing HIV testing in the poorest New York neighborhoods. On a day to day basis her duties include making sure there is funding, conducting test, writing grants, writing manuscripts, trying to get published, and going to conferences to present her teams findings so that they can push policy.

When asked why she chose this area of study, she quickly responded, “God puts you in places at different times”. When she first began to pursue her masters in public health, she always knew she wanted to work in disadvantaged communities, and started off doing international work, but realized it wasn’t for her. She began doing more national work, and wanted to focus on women of color. She then transitioned into general health disparities, because blacks across the board have poor health. She ended up needing a job and her mentor, who worked at Columbia, offered her a job working in research for drug use. At first she thought it wasn’t for her, because it can be emotionally painful, but she got into it, and ended up loving it!

Natalie didn’t always want to go into Epidemiology. She initially wanted to be a  surgeon. Her freshmen year she started thinking this isn’t realistic. “I can’t deal with people dying.”  She met a professor who got a degree in public health and started talking to her about the work she does. She started researching epidemiology and realized this was perfect.

The best thing about what she does is being able to help people in some way. Even though it is not always instant gratification, because research takes so long, at the end of the day she will be able to sit down and craft a story to show how we can help people of color.

A few activities Natalie does in her spare time, and that time is really limited, is mentoring women that are pursuing masters in her area of study. She also lectures classes from time to time. A past great moment was teaching at the Arthur Ash institute for young people of color who want to go on to be doctors.

Her first job was working at the age of 13 for her mom at her business management company. Natalie started with one of her moms clients, an agriculture company, making copies. Doesn’t every amazing person start off making copies?

People might be surprised to know that she went white water rafting and snorkeling on her honeymoon, because people that know her, know that she can’t swim. Way to dive right in!

She advises people to work hard. “I think it’s about 30% being smart, but I really think people that do well in anything just work hard.”

In the near future she is going on to be a health and society scholar with the Robert Wood Johnson foundation. She has been appointed to this position at the University of Michigan.

A personal goal is to publish a lot of her work. One thing she wants to do in that publishing is establish some type of forum where her research and others research is disseminated a little more in regular jargon so that regular day people can understand the health disparities that effect them. Eventually she plans to be a professor.

Next: Natisha Lance

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