Meet Dana Cropper, training leader putting community first

A lot of Dana Cropper’s work happens behind the scenes. As Director of the California Prevention Training Center, Dana leads an impressive team that helps healthcare professionals build capacity all over the country and the world. Just like the years of public health work that brought her here, she sees her behind-the-scenes work as a way of serving the community.

Dana was inspired to go into the public health field when her uncle died of AIDS-related complications while she was in college. She started out as a disease intervention specialist, a professional who investigates and stops the spread of communicable disease. She calls these specialists the “foundation of public health.” Working to stop the spread of infections including STIs and HIV “has allowed me to really just honor my uncle in so many ways over the last two decades,” she says.

By creating curricula for disease intervention specialists, Dana is helping to train future generations and transform the way people provide inclusive, equitable care to their communities. “Every time you create a curriculum, it’s like birthing a baby,” she says. There’s a sense of accomplishment in shepherding something from an idea to something trainers are using out in the field, from a huge 16-module curriculum developed while at HealthHIV to help health departments address Black and Brown men who have sex with men (TRANSFORM) or working with CDC and IHS representatives to develop a curriculum for Indigenous youth (Native STAND- Students Together Against Negative Decisions).

Stepping into the role of heading up CAPTC comes at a critical and challenging time. The center rapidly shifted focus and brought on lots of new team members to stand up national COVID contact tracing trainings in a matter of weeks. They had to serve a large, new audience and teach other people how to do live, interactive online trainings. The crisis has taught Dana and the team that they can create online trainings that are just as effective, and reach new trainees that never would have been able to attend training face to face. “I’m always impressed with our flexibility and adaptability, that we can make those shifts so quickly and so well,” Dana says. These necessary changes have opened up new avenues for creativity, reimagining ways to integrate online and in-person training and expand their offerings.

Dana sees a future where CAPTC is launching an institute to share their vast knowledge and train up trainers all around the country. She wants to help people learn how to be the best trainers they can be, to be culturally responsive to deal with a diverse group of participants, and manage the challenges of the remote training environment we still find ourselves in.

Ultimately, all of these pieces align to push toward a common goal. “I want healthcare and health literacy to be more equitable and inclusive for everyone,” Dana says. “In our work to promote equity and build provider capacity, we put people first in an effort to realize that.”