Thomas Franco

5 questions with… senior, Capitol Hill intern Thomas Franco

Thomas FrancoWhen Thomas Franco, a senior studying cognitive science, first started at Case Western Reserve as a first-year student, he entered on a pre-med path. But as he wrapped up his second year, he felt as though he lacked purpose in the field. He opted to pursue other interests, even considering pre-law.

Ultimately, an internship showed him his purpose in health care.

Last November, Franco began interning with North Coast Health as part of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) United Health Foundation Intern-Scholar Program.

Throughout his junior year, he directly interviewed patients about their circumstances, hearing their stories about how they had ended up seeking care at Lakewood, Ohio-based North Coast Health, which provides service to uninsured and under-insured individuals.

“A lot of people think of a certain stereotype when they think of the people who have to go to these sort of places,” he said. “These people were completely proving that to be a myth. They had worked for 30 or 40 years and got sick or were laid off and all of a sudden didn’t have health care coverage. What are they supposed to do when they get really sick?”

After that experience, Franco realized he still wanted to go into the health care field—but with an added emphasis on affecting policy, which led him to his internship on Capitol Hill this summer.

Following his positive experience with CHCI, he applied for the organization’s Summer Congressional Internship Program. He was chosen from hundreds of applicants for one of 38 spots in the program and was paired with Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas).

Over the summer, Franco was immersed in all things policy. He talked to constituents to gain a better understanding of Vela’s district’s concerns and prepared research memos, including one on the Puerto Rican debt crisis.

He also had the chance to attend hearings and briefings aligned with his interest, so he sought out as many as he could on health care issues, hearing directly from policy experts.

“There’s only so much a textbook can tell you about how the government works, how Congress works,” Franco said. “This gave me a real-world experience.”

This semester, Franco is continuing his work in policy as an intern for the Latino Affairs Commission for the State of Ohio.

On campus, Franco is involved CWRU’s Circle K chapter, which he established as a sophomore. The organization is collegiate version of Key Club—which Franco participated in at his high school—and works with Kiwanis International to participate in various community service opportunities.

This semester, he’s serving as the fall conference chair, and will bring chapters from Ohio to campus for a conference.

“I saw the need for being able to create fellowship among service-minded individuals,” he said. “So I found a group of people who were similarly passionate about not only service, but about the organization and its goals. Kiwanis helps the children of the world.”

Franco hopes to continue helping children and underserved populations as a family doctor after taking a gap year before medical school to work as a staffer on Capitol Hill to learn more about how he might one day be able to impact policy.

Learn more about him in this week’s five questions.

1. Who has been your most influential mentor?

Dr. Lisa Nielson has been so incredibly helpful in my collegiate journey. She was my SAGES First Seminar and University Seminar professor, and ended up being a really amazing person in my life. Dr. N has always been around to listen and offer advice on whatever is going on in my life. She has a really great sense of humor, and I think she’s helped me see things in new ways.

2. What was your first job?

My first job was working the concessions at the Coliseum back home [in San Angelo, Texas]. I was pretty young, maybe eighth grade or so. I only worked during the annual stock show and rodeo, but thousands of people would come, so we were pretty busy most nights. I made a decent amount of spending money, and at the end of the night, they’d let us take home free food.

3. Who is your favorite author?

I don’t know that I have a favorite, per se. However, I am currently reading Give Us the Ballot by Ari Berman. The book goes pretty in-depth about the struggle for voting rights for minorities. His research is incredibly detailed and presented in a way that keeps you eager to learn more. I can’t wait to finish it.

4. How do you like to spend your time when you’re away from school and/or work?

I love to play the guitar and sing when I’m alone. I’ll take a pop song from the radio and mash it up with another song that I think goes well. Sometimes, I’ll use my laptop’s recording software to record whatever I come up with. It’s a nice way to clear my mind.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

The feeling of community, both in the smaller and larger senses. Some of my closest friends that I have now going into my senior year are the people I lived with my first year.

I think also in the larger sense, I’ve seen our campus go through some really rough patches—I’ve seen a couple of our highs and our lows—but I like our ability to come together to unite and say, ‘We are CWRU, this is what we value, this is our home.’ I think that’s really important and it’s something I admire about CWRU.