ATLANTA - Six Georgia State law students are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this spring semester. Three students, who landed their jobs at the CDC through connections at Georgia State Law, were profiled in Part 1 of this two-part series (for Part 1, click here). The three other law students, featured here, were already full-time employees at the CDC before enrolling in law school.
Jenny Sewell, part-time 3L, is a full-time Public Health Analyst in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention who has been with the CDC since 2005. Prior to joining the CDC, Sewell worked for four years as a health policy analyst for the Council of State Governments, a nonprofit, membership organization serving elected and appointed state officials. During that time, she also completed a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the University of Kentucky. Sewell analyzes policy and program approaches to inform decision-making and resource allocation. She also monitors and analyzes state and federal legislative and administrative actions affecting public health issues.
In her career at the CDC, Sewell uses both her MPA background and the legal skills she has learned while earning her JD degree. "My work requires knowledge of the roles that the executive branch and Congress play in directing agency activities," Sewell explained. "Classes like administrative law, where we studied the Paperwork Reduction Act and the Freedom of Information Act, are very relevant to the work I do. I also use the non-legal skills I learned in getting my master’s, such as strategic planning and organizational theory, and my knowledge of public health learned while at the CDC."
Donald Prather, part-time 3L, is a full-time Scientific Marketing Specialist and one of two intellectual property licensing associates at the CDC. "Primarily I negotiate patent licenses with biotechnology companies for patented and unpatented CDC technologies," said Prather. "I use my legal training when I negotiate IP licenses, because it helps me understand certain clauses and which ones are negotiable. I also use my legal skills to analyze licensing issues when there’s some case law or when I need to address a patent infringement issue."
Prather holds a PhD in genetics from Harvard University. He says the most important part of his job is business and sales - the marketing of intellectual property. "I consider my job to be one-third law, one-third business, and one-third science," he said. "While it is not the classic ’public health law’ side of CDC, it is definitely the practice of intellectual property law within the federal government." While Prather brings a unique set of IP skills to the CDC, he likes being part of an overall public health agency. "I love the overall mission of public health and belonging to an organization that promotes health on a global scale," he said.
Caroline Lagoy Sirhal, part-time 3L, is also a Public Health Analyst, having received a Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology from the University of Michigan in 2004. She works full time in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Legislation in the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "My team is the coordination point for promoting the Center’s priorities on chronic disease prevention and control," said Sirhal. "While I’m not drafting motions or briefs, a lot of the work I do involves my legal skills, such as analyzing a multitude of laws, including legislation and regulations."
As a policy analyst, Sirhal gets to see her work play out on the real-world stage. "I get a kick out of hearing about things that I have worked on in the news," she said. "For example, I was in the Office of the Chief of Staff working on flu in 2009 during the H1N1 pandemic. It was all flu, all the time. My husband and I traveled to Ireland for Christmas, and we saw CDC flyers and brochures in the airports and public areas in Europe. It made me realize that CDC truly has a global impact."
Law students who want to work with the CDC after graduation should consider applying for one of the federal government’s leadership-development fellowship programs. Sirhal joined the CDC as a Presidential Management Fellow. "PMF is one of the easiest ways to be hired into the government," said Sirhal. "The CDC has a very strong network of PMF alumni from which to draw advice and opportunities for growth and advancement."
Sewell initially joined the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Emerging Leader Program, another two-year fellowship program. "In my first year with HHS, I rotated through a number of offices to learn about the Department as well as gain communication and leadership skills," said Sewell. "When my rotations ended, I started full time with the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health."
Despite their different backgrounds and work responsibilities, the law students all agree that their law school experiences have been valuable for their work with the CDC. "When I came to interview at the Public Health Law Program, then-Director Tony Moulton told me how incredibly impressed he and his colleagues have been with Georgia State law students," said Lindholm. "In addition to helping me get my foot in the door at the CDC, the GSU health law program has developed my skills and given me experiences that have helped me understand and excel in the public health work we are doing at the CDC."
To read Part 1 of this series, click here.