Promoting Public Health in Our Time of Greatest Need

April 15, 2020

Dr. Charles M. Krafchak Memorial Scholarship honors a young life lost for what he loved best

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Charlie Krafchak ('99 B.S.) in his lab

“We wish we could ask him questions about what’s happening, what his take would be,” Alicia Kolar Prevost said of her cousin, Charlie, during our world’s greatest public health threat since the pandemic of 1918. Surely the gifted medical researcher would have keen insight into today’s crisis.

And though her cousin cannot be here to provide his guidance, a scholarship created in his honor will help ensure his legacy of dedication to public health is strong at UM-Dearborn.

“It seems like we've never had a time when educating people for careers in public health was more important,” Alicia said.

Charlie Krafchak grew up with Alicia, who was a year older. His mother and her sister raised their children together, and the cousins went to high school and UM-Dearborn together.

“I thought he would do engineering things,” said Mary Ann Krafchak, his mother. She saw her curious boy with an extraordinary memory knitting things together in his mind. But Charlie chose the medical field. He would later isolate the gene that causes glaucoma, she proudly said. 

At UM-Dearborn, Alicia got Charlie involved with student government, where he helped rewrite the constitution. They were also part of the Honors Program within the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters [CASL] where Charlie developed a deep interest in public health. They each graduated in 1999, Alicia with a dual degree in political science and history, Charlie with a Bachelor of Science in biology. Charlie went on to earn a Master's and Ph.D. in Public Health with a focus on epidemiology from the University of Michigan and had just finished his medical degree at Wayne State University where he was conducting research at the Detroit Medical Center. But it came to a sudden end nearly 11 years ago.

Charlie felt pain in his shoulder and drove himself to Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn. It was too late. He died before making it into the hospital, at the age of 33. Three children lost their father, his wife Sarah – also a UM-Dearborn grad – lost her husband, and we all lost a man who could truly help us today.

Charlie’s family decided a few years ago that they wanted to give back to the world some of what the world had given him. The Dr. Charles M. Krafchak Memorial Scholarship was established, providing support to undergraduates who are enrolled in the Honors Program in CASL and plan a career in public health. The Honors Program was a guiding force in Charlie’s education at UM-Dearborn, and his memory will be the same force for future students.

“We also did it for his kids,” who were very young when he died, said Alicia. “They can hear people talk about his work, and learn more about what he wanted to do and how much working in public health meant to him.”

A luncheon was held to celebrate the kickoff of the scholarship, and his family heard from two of Charlie’s favorite professors, associate professor of political science Michael Rosano and professor of history Gerry Moran. They learned how important Charlie’s research was.

Hebah Reda was the 2018-19 recipient of the Krafchak Scholarship, majoring in biological sciences and minoring in law and society.

“I hope to pursue a career in medicine in the future where I leave behind an imprint on the communities I work with through addressing health disparities and health concerns,” she said in a letter to the donors. Like Charlie, she has a passion for medicine, public health, and social justice.

“You have left me committed to giving back to other students who aspire to make a change to their community,” Hebah added. “I am driven to make a difference in the lives of others and to do so through education, empowerment, and devotion.”

Our community will need more people like Hebah, as COVID-19 requires a plan and future health concerns will need plans as well. We may not be able to ask Charlie questions, but the Krafchak Memorial Scholarship will provide resources to attract the people we need to study public health, find answers and keep the public safe.

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