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ASU graduate works to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa

Lauren Crenshaw on Mt. Kilimanjaro sitting in front of a sign reading "Mount Kilimanjaro" and including other details about her exact location.

College of Health Solutions graduate Lauren Crenshaw is working as an HIV/AIDS education facilitator with the Peace Corps in Zambia. She took some time away from work to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Courtesy photo

February 27, 2024

Lauren Crenshaw’s time at Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions helped prepare her to follow her passion to work in HIV/AIDS prevention.

Crenshaw, who earned a master’s degree in the science of health care delivery in May 2021, is now working with the Peace Corps in Zambia as an HIV/AIDS education facilitator.

Her work is geared toward reducing HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women across 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which works globally with countries to end AIDS as a public health threat.

She started her current position after working at a Native health organization in Portland. When she learned of the Peace Corps opportunity, she thought it would be the perfect next step.

“I was looking to move careers into strictly focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention, and I came across Peace Corps,” Crenshaw said. “The role would be physically in Zambia and I could not think of a better opportunity.

"Currently, Zambia has an extremely high rate of HIV infections. The number has gone down from what it used to be in the '80s and '90s but is still alarming.”

Here she talks about her education and career trajectory.

Question: What got you interested in a career in health?

Answer: I really got interested in a career in health right before the pandemic began, ironically. I was completing an internship working with geriatric populations, and one of my clients was explaining how she could not afford health insurance and her employer did not provide benefits since she was part time. She was close to retirement age but still not 65 to qualify for Medicare. After working with her, I began to review more about Medicare and Medicaid policies. It’s no secret the U.S. health care system is complex, and this sparked my interest to learn more about it. 

Q. What are you doing now?

A: My main responsibility is to hold workshops with teachers, community members, district education officers and religious leaders, and educate them about the misconceptions about HIV and AIDS and ways to prevent and treat the disease.

One of the projects I was excited to work on is collaborating with the Ministry of Health to create an adolescent safe space. In this space, youth can receive counseling, condoms, HIV treatment and learn about family planning options.

Recently, I had the pleasure of assisting one of my fellow volunteers at her BRO (Boys Respecting Others) Camp. This camp hosted roughly 22 adolescent boys between the ages of 13–15 for one week. There are not a lot of opportunities for youth during the school break, so this was an amazing experience for them.

The Peace Corps is a great opportunity to work in another country and allows you to experience some cool opportunities … like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. 

Q: How did your time at the College of Health Solutions help prepare you for the work you're doing now?

A: The College of Health Solutions has greatly prepared me for the work I am doing now. While completing my master’s, I did a lot of group work and problem solving. In my professional work, I have had to do a ton of conflict resolution. 

Q: What’s next?

A: After I finish my service with the Peace Corps, I hope to get a job with an international company to continue to do health promotion, project implementation and research. Ideally, I would like to join a global consulting firm to allow me the opportunity to work with a broad range of public health issues and clientele. 

Q: Any advice for current students or those considering a career in health?

A: Be optimistic about your future in health, and don’t limit yourself to one career path. There are several health care paths that need more people to be a part of them. Surgical technologists, cath lab technicians, health promotion managers, emergency management, social workers in hospitals and quality improvement specialists are just a few careers I see that need a lot more people.

I was set on the fact I wanted to go to med school for a while. I think after completing my master’s at the College of Health Solutions, I gained more knowledge about careers in health and opportunities for me. 

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: A highlight I want to share is Dr. William Riley’s Health Care Management and Finance class. That class was extremely engaging and gives a very good example of what working in health care is like. No matter what career path you take, I guarantee something Dr. Riley mentions in that class will come up.

Lastly, pay attention in process engineering! Get your Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and immediately put that on your resume. Every time I have mentioned it in an interview, I have always gotten a positive response. 

Overall, I am very grateful for my time at ASU and the people I met along the way.

Story by Keri Hensley, social media manager, and Weldon B. Johnson, communications specialist, College of Health Solutions.

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