Chris Bui is a public health law professional currently working as a Tobacco Prevention Policy Coordinator at the Tri-County Health Department in Denver, Colorado. Chris works with community partners, youth-serving organizations, local government officials, elected city council members, supporting staff and other public health officials to promote local policy change aimed at protecting youth access and targeting by the tobacco and e-cigarette industries. In this Q & A, Chris shares some insights about his experience as a mentor in the 2013/2014 Student Network Mentorship Program.
Tell us about your educational background.
I received my Master of Public Health from Drexel University in 2007. I was originally on the pre-med to medical school route, but fate pulled me in a different direction and my public health education enlightened me to the fact that there’s so much more to public health than medicine. I had great faculty at Drexel School of Public Health who encouraged and challenged me to explore the different aspects of public health, in particular law and policy. Naturally, law school sounded like a great follow up to my master’s degree. So in 2010, I received my Juris Doctorate from University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
Can you describe your early experiences in the public health law field?
After law school, I spent six months in 2011 clerking for two state district court judges in the most populous county in Colorado. I really enjoyed my experience under the head clerk, but definitely saw some downsides to the volume of work involved. I then moved over to the other side of the courtroom and practiced in a small family law firm in the Denver metro area. I am happy to now be working more directly on public health goals in my current position at a county health department.
Why did you decide to become a mentor?
I decided to become a mentor partly due to my very recent education experience as a graduate and law student. I thought I might be able to provide insight to other aspiring public health law professionals.
How do you feel you were able to help your mentee, Michael, throughout the program?
My experience with Michael throughout this mentorship program has been more of a ‘colleague’ interaction than a mentor/mentee relationship. After all, this has been a learning experience for me as well. A lot of our interactions focused on Michael’s aspirations to go to law school and further his career in public health law. After being waitlisted at his first choice, we reviewed the content and format of his resume and letter of interest and ensured he was putting his best foot forward. We also talked about using additional recommendation letters to bolster his application. During our discussions, we addressed the interesting conundrum of melding public health with practicing law and vice versa; how could we utilize the two areas to make him a more appealing candidate for law school admissions?
Can you provide tips for future mentor/mentee pairs?
I must say that our mentor/mentee pairing had some challenges given the geographical distance between Denver and Baltimore. Nonetheless, technology solved that problem! I would definitely suggest creating a communication schedule. Given our busy lives, it’s good to lock something down on your schedule two to three weeks out so it doesn’t fall to the side. Another important suggestion is to determine early on the best (and most convenient) form of communication for the both parties. For us, it was email and telephone calls. I’m not a believer in the possibility of having a genuine conversation via texting. Overall, this experience with Michael and the Mentorship Program has been wonderful and it is exciting to see more professionals joining the public health law community.
Learn more about the Student Network Mentorship Program and apply
The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state. The views expressed in this post do not represent those of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.