Mary Fran Crosswell, M.D.
Teach For America Houston 1991
Child Abuse Pediatrics, Prisma Health – Upstate
“In college at Wake Forest, I didn’t have a very clear career path,” said Mary Fran Crosswell, M.D. “I certainly didn’t see myself in medicine. It took time to sort things out.”
Initially interested in teaching, Crosswell applied in 1991 to Teach For America (TFA), drawn by the organization’s goals of equity and universal access to quality education. Accepted in TFA’s second year, she found herself teaching at a Title 1 school in Houston, Texas.
That second-grade classroom experience shaped Crosswell’s life. It’s a vivid illustration of the lifelong impact TFA often has on young educators.
“I had some children in my classes who had experienced significant trauma,” said Crosswell. “I found that I could listen to their stories, and those stories followed me as I went on to medical school and into my pediatric residency.”
“Then, during residency, I found the cases of child abuse were the ones that I was most interested in and passionate about. I decided to focus my attention on that field.”
In 2006, Crosswell joined a practice in child abuse pediatrics in Greenville, S.C. Today, she’s widely respected as an authority on the mistreatment of young people. She sees children with concerns of abuse who are referred by the South Carolina Department of Social Services, the police department, or other physicians. Crosswell regularly speaks on child abuse issues, and she frequently takes the stand as an expert witness in legal cases.
“I serve as the child’s advocate for prevention of further abuse and for better outcomes,” explained Crosswell. “My job is to do a thorough medical evaluation and an assessment of a child’s situation. That can include meeting family and caregivers to help them understand interventions that will allow a child to recover from trauma. I want to ensure a family has the tools, including counseling, to optimize a child’s care.”
Crosswell supports Teach For America South Carolina as an advocate and a donor. “I believe in the mission. The lessons I carry with me from teaching in Houston help me reflect on how to make recommendations that give children a better opportunity to live and learn.”
Crosswell strongly feels that two statewide programs would raise the odds that South Carolina’s children grow up to be emotionally healthy.
“I’d like every child to have access to Pre-K education,” she said. “From my experience, I know that those children who attend Pre-K gain non-tangible assets, like better communication skills and more confidence. That gives them an advantage.”
She added, “Also, I’d like all schools to be trauma-informed. It doesn’t mean teachers would take on the role of mental health counselors. But all teachers would have a better understanding of how trauma impacts children.”
“More than half of all children experience childhood trauma before the end of high school. It can affect them in so many ways. Being aware of this fact can change a teacher’s approach from What’s wrong with you? to What’s happened to you?”
Crosswell, meanwhile, is proud to see another family member follow in her TFA footprints.
“My oldest daughter, Molly, is in her second year with TFA at a school in Fall River, Massachusetts,” said Crosswell. “She’s teaching high school biology.”