Health & Wellness

Planting Ideas: Pandemic Prompts USU Student to Pursue Health Care Career in Navajo Nation

By Maren Aller |

LaQuinlynn Francis

Selecting a college major is a pivotal choice with far-reaching implications for one’s future. For Utah State University student LaQuinlynn Francis, the commitment to pursue a degree in health education and promotion with an emphasis in health science within the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services carries a deeply personal significance.

Hailing from the Navajo Nation, LaQuinlynn’s decision is fueled by a profound aspiration to comprehend and address prevalent health issues in the community where she grew up.

“The impact of the pandemic to the Navajo community was devastating,” LaQuinlynn said. “Losing two cherished individuals, both grappling with diabetes and losing their eyesight, propelled me into a quest for ways to address their health issues. Despite my efforts, COVID claimed them, leaving me feeling powerless. Those losses helped me make my decision to return to school, driven by the urgency to seek answers and solutions for the pressing health challenges affecting my community.”

Inspired by a profound interest in human diseases, epidemiology, nutrition, and health and wellness, LaQuinlynn found solace in acquiring knowledge that extended beyond textbooks. Her educational journey became a place of inspiration as she delved into the intricate connections between health, culture and community.

LaQuinlynn’s pursuit of knowledge and the challenging coursework not only allowed her to enhance her own health, but she also discovered a passion for sharing her experiences and cultural insights. Her instructors at USU became mentors, providing her with enthusiasm because of their teaching styles and real-world experiences.

The support and feedback from these professors empowered LaQuinlynn to express herself effectively, creating a platform to advocate for health education. She also credits much of her educational success to a USU professor and mentor who encouraged her to become part of the Women Who Succeed program that provides young women in Utah with mentorship, leadership opportunities and access to events to empower, build self-confidence and grow their academic and professional skills.

On track to graduate with her USU bachelor’s degree in Spring 2024, LaQuinlynn’s educational journey began where she grew up in Chinle, Arizona, on the Navajo reservation. Her excellent grades in high school, particularly in her career and technical education courses, provided her a modest scholarship for the College of Eastern Utah’s campus located in Blanding, Utah (now USU Blanding), where she earned an associate degree in 2010. She went on to earn an automotive technology certificate in 2012 from Navajo Technical University, and a medical assistant certificate in 2013 from USU. A decade after her initial exposure to college life, LaQuinlynn embraced the flexibility of USU Online learning programs to attain her long-awaited bachelor’s degree from USU.

Throughout her educational journey, LaQuinlynn has been thankful for the scholarships that are helping her realize her goals.

“I am so grateful for the many scholarships that have eased my financial burdens over the years,” LaQuinlynn said. “The scholarships kept me motivated because I knew that someone believed in me enough to help support my education. Today, I want to do my best to carry their generosity forward by making a positive difference in other people’s lives after I graduate.”

As LaQuinlynn looks into the complexities of health issues impacting the Navajo community, she sees a future where change is not just a possibility, but a necessity. She credits the professors and advisers at USU for setting her up for success.

“I am considering pursuing a master’s of public health, inspired by the encouragement of my USU professors,” she said. “Their words planted the idea in my mind, affirming my capability.”

While pursuing her associate degree, LaQuinlynn resided on the Blanding campus. Later, during the completion of her medical assistant certificate, she continued to live on the USU Blanding campus. This phase included engaging in externship activities and nursing clinicals that required her presence in hospitals and clinics across Montezuma Creek, Monticello, Mancos, Blanding and Dove Creek.

Her outlook on health care has been significantly shaped by influential TV shows like “The Good Doctor” and the hands-on experiences gained while enrolled in USU’s medical assistant program. These experiences have expanded her perspective, guiding her toward a promising future in the crucial field of health care.

With aspirations to become a naturopathic doctor, LaQuinlynn wants to dedicate herself to diagnosing, treating and managing health conditions through natural and herbal medicine. She has even contemplated the prospect of venturing into surgery. To fulfill her dreams, LaQuinlynn emphasizes the importance of perseverance, dedication and seeking support. Her advice to future students echoes the transformative power of networking, getting involved in school activities, and maintaining a consistent focus on studies.

“Living on campus was an amazing experience,” LaQuinlynn said. “I would tell anyone looking to go to college to put themselves out there and get involved in school activities, make connections, and keep up with your studies. And never be afraid to ask for help. Yes, it takes time, effort, discipline, and consistency — but it is all worth it.”

LaQuinlynn’s story serves as a testament to the resilience embedded in her Navajo spirit and the transformative power of education. As she envisions a healthier future for her community, LaQuinlynn stands as an inspiring example of how knowledge, coupled with determination, can be a catalyst for positive change.


Maren Aller
Senior Writer
(435) 797-1355


Maren Aller
Senior Writer
(435) 797-1355


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