Dr. Angela L. Walker Franklin

Des Moines University

United States

As a small-town Southern girl from South Carolina, Angela never imagined that she would one day be President and CEO of Des Moines University. She came to the school with a passion for medicine and health sciences, and she cannot wait to see where the future takes us. “I am excited to see how advancements in new technologies will transform how we teach and train future health professionals,” she says.

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Women in AI
Dr. Angela L. Walker Franklin

Dr. Angela L. Walker Franklin, president and CEO of Des Moines University, is excited about how future medical students will learn their craft, hone their skills and become tomorrow’s healthcare professionals. As the leader of an innovative institution, she is now leading an effort to build the health sciences university of the future from the ground up.

I am excited to see how advancements in new technologies will transform how we teach and train future health professionals,” Dr. Franklin says. “We don’t want to build for today, we want to build for the future – that’s the transformative vision for Des Moines University. 

For example, the university is engaged in a process of reimagining classrooms, labs, and other collaborative learning spaces as they plan for their new 88-acre campus that is slated to open in 2023. “We are building a campus that can flex and evolve over the years to stay current, fresh, and cutting edge," she says. 

Dr. Franklin, who counts IPsoft healthcare lead Dr. Vincent Grasso among her many colleagues, also supports technology advances in medical education as well as in healthcare delivery. Anatomy labs of the future, for example, will evolve just as new technologies, digital analytics and AI will transform the practice of medicine. 

“DMU trains students with a very holistic approach and we support a patient-centered, personal, compassionate, and touch-and-feel kind of medicine,” she says. While she acknowledges the power and efficiencies of new initiatives such as robotics and telehealth, she values the empathy and compassion from personal relationships that are established in healthcare, and says they are important to preserve and sustain. 

DMU is also doing its part to ensure that kids are exposed to and educated about the potential of a career in STEM fields. 

“We have a Girls in Science program here at DMU called Girls Exploring Medicine and Science (GEMS),” Dr. Franklin says. “We also have one for boys too (Boys Reaching for Opportunities in Science, BROS). For years, we only had it for girls then realized that there are still many underserved and disadvantaged communities that need additional support for their young men. It’s important to involve them early to help them find the fun in science.” 

Dr, Franklin's own education proved to be especially beneficial, leading her down an unexpected path as an educator. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Emory University and intended to open her own practice. Her plans changed when she was offered an opportunity to join the faculty of a medical school in Atlanta, Georgia, starting as an assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral science. 

“I have a unique background of being a non-physician but spending my whole career in health sciences education,” she says. One of her mentors, Dr. Louis Sullivan, encouraged her to pursue college and university presidencies, often nominating her for various roles.  Little did she know at the time that this journey would take her to a place she had never visited, in a role that she never imagined fulfilling.  

came to Des Moines University to serve my calling as a university president challenging this organization to dream big and break out of its comfort zone," she says. "To now be able to realize the future of health sciences and build the campus of the future from the ground up is a dream come true.”