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Elizabeth Sherwood Frank (Liz), 27, of Houston, Texas passed away on Saturday, August 20, 2022. Liz is the adored daughter of Jane and Stephen Frank and loving sister to William and Caroline. Liz was in her 4th year of medical school at Baylor College of Medicine.
Born August 21, 1994 in New York City, Liz grew up in Darien, Connecticut from age 4. She attended Pear Tree Point School, New Canaan Country School, and Greenwich Academy. Liz was a gifted all-around athlete and enjoyed soccer, lacrosse, skiing, tennis, and golf. Her athletic passion, however, was gymnastics. For many years, Liz competed for Darien YMCA Gymnastics. She loved the team camaraderie and physicality of intense daily workouts. Liz would arrive home beaming following evenings at the gym. While her favorite event was uneven bars, she also loved the vault, floor, and balance beam. Liz attained Level 8/10 and medaled in numerous competitions around the country. Liz had to conclude her gymnastics career following injuries suffered in her early teens.
When the gymnastics injuries and development of an autoimmune condition curtailed her athletic activities, Liz channeled her energy toward intellectual pursuits, especially mathematics. At Greenwich Academy, under the guidance of a beloved teacher, she and a few classmates pursued math beyond the school’s curriculum into college-level study. During her senior year, Liz won the Leo J. Whelton Award for excellence in mathematics, the Upper School Science Department Award, and the Spanish Language Award. She was also a two-year member of the Cum Laude Society.
Liz continued to pursue her passion for mathematics at Williams College, even as she followed a pre-medical course of study. She found in theoretical mathematics beauty and purity over and above the other STEM subjects. Liz came to believe that mathematics underpins the core of how the universe evolves and that it exists outside human consciousness. At Williams, Liz found professors and peers who shared her academic passions. In 2014, Liz won the Erastus C. Benedict Math Prize. In her senior year, Liz wrote and defended a thesis entitled “Blowing Up Toric Varieties with Multidimensional Continued Fractions”. Liz graduated Magna Cum Laude with Honors in Mathematics in 2016. Most importantly, Liz found lifelong friends at Williams who shared her kind and generous spirit. While all of Liz’s friends were dedicated scholars, they had a lot of fun with board games and low-brow TV. There is photographic evidence of spirited hijinks during annual road trips to Bald Head Island in North Carolina.
Wishing to gain real-world experience prior to medical school, Liz joined Dana Farber Center for Pediatric Cancer Therapeutics in Boston. Performing statistical data analysis in support of childhood cancer research, Liz was co-author on five published scholarly articles. She would tell anyone who would listen about the dearth of resources devoted to childhood cancer research as compared to adult cancers.
Taking the next step in her journey, Liz matriculated at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and planned to specialize in pediatric oncology after graduation. Liz’s remarkable ability to connect with children ensued from her respect for their dignity as fellow human beings. Liz found connection with children throughout her life. From coaching Tumblebugs at Darien YMCA gymnastics during high school summers to interning at Ronald McDonald House in New York City during college summers, Liz saw a career in pediatrics as the natural progression of her devotion to caring for children. She was in the process of applying to pediatric residency programs at the time of her passing.
At Baylor, Liz’s analytical mind and interest in deep philosophical questions steered her toward the Medical Ethics Pathway in her course of study. She was eager to discuss the difficult situations that doctors face when weighing the costs and benefits of further medical treatment, especially in instances where quality of life issues make further interventions of questionable benefit to the patient. Liz was also interested in how the medical profession could better care for young people with chronic illnesses transitioning from the pediatric to adult spheres of medical care. She served children outside of her formal training, volunteering to spend time with her “kiddos” during their dialysis treatments and tutoring high school patients with sickle cell disease.
Liz loved to read, especially speculative and science fiction. Liz saw fiction as a means of examining the big existential questions that humans have pondered for all time. Her favorite author was Ursula K. Le Guin, a pioneer in moving science fiction from pure genre to the highest echelons of literature. Liz loved not only Le Guin’s classic novels, but also her short stories, poetry, and her translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching.
Although she was a natural introvert, it was not hard to move Liz to animated conversation. Of course, anything related to science, medicine, or childhood cancer research was a hot topic. Another way was to ask her a question about the nature of human consciousness. Once revved up, Liz could go on for hours discussing enigmatic topics like the possibility that humans are actually living in a Matrix-like computer simulation or whether we truly have free will.
Liz spent her childhood summers at her grandparents’ home in Westport, Massachusetts among siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. As an adult, Liz loved to read on the patio, swim in the Westport River, and play board games in the evenings. She described Westport as her favorite place in the world.
Among Liz’s best friends were her siblings Will and Caroline. Reflecting their close relationships, Will had recently asked Liz and Caroline together to serve as his “best man” in his upcoming wedding. When Liz and Will both lived in the Boston area after college, they gathered with friends regularly after work for evenings of intense board game playing.
The Frank five, a “fiver” in family parlance, was a tight unit. Liz adored her nuclear family and her family adored her. The pandemic and Liz’s relocation to Houston made gathering together more challenging. Despite limited opportunities, each reunion was eagerly anticipated and cherished by all. Board games, home-cooked meals, and lively banter were staples in the Frank household. As dedicated Lord of the Rings nerds, the possibility of viewing the extended editions of the movie trilogy was ever present. A huge Gandalf fan, Liz met actor Sir Ian McKellen in 2013 after seeing a Broadway production of Waiting for Godot. Famous in family lore, when Sir Ian turned to greet Liz at the stage door after the show, she was completely awestruck and had to rely on her sister to obtain an autographed Playbill. Another LOTR highlight was seeing the 2015 live-orchestra versions of the movies performed at Lincoln Center.
Liz will be missed for her dry wit, her quiet thoughtfulness, and the personal embodiment of her priorities in everyday life. She sought to live her life according to her values without compromise. In her pursuit of a career in medicine, Liz planned to work toward a more egalitarian distribution of healthcare resources. She inspired others by her resilience and perseverance in the face of 15 years of personal health challenges and her dedication to a life of service, science, and medicine. She will be dearly missed by her family, friends, and the innumerable children whose lives she would have impacted as a future pediatrician.
Liz is survived by her parents Jane and Stephen, her sister Caroline, her brother Will and his fiancée Avani Madappa, numerous aunts, uncles, and many cousins. Liz is predeceased by her adoring grandparents Betty & Guy Reny, Brooke Frank, and Walter Frank.
A memorial gathering will be held on Saturday October 15th at 2pm at the Acoaxet Club in Westport, Massachusetts. In lieu of flowers, please consider supporting childhood cancer research by donating to Alex’s Lemonade Stand. The link to Liz’s memorial page is: https://www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/3124191