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Public Health Law Mentorship: A Mentee's Perspective

posted on Wed, Aug 27 2014 11:13 am by Johnattan Garcia

Johnattan Garcia is a fifth-year Colombian student studying both law and business administration at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. Johnattan participated in the 2013/2014 Student Network Mentorship Program as a mentee. In this Q & A, Johnattan shares some insights about his experience. 

Why did you decide to explore public health law as a career?

In Colombia, law has not been explored as a public health tool to the same extent as it has in the United States. Within the last decade there has been an increase in litigation about Colombians’ right to health, which has required lawyers and the judicial branch to contemplate the role of Colombians’ constitutional rights with regards to our country’s health system. I think Colombians can learn from other nations’ efforts to utilize law as a public health tool, and I find the opportunity to be both challenging and amazing. I am excited by the possibility of developing this field in Colombia.

Why did you decide to participate in the Student Network Mentorship Program?

Although I was not enrolled in a U.S. law school, I applied to the mentorship program because I felt it would be a valuable opportunity to gain a greater understanding for the field and get in touch with experienced public health law professionals. The mentorship program was a unique opportunity to get information about how lawyers work in the field. Furthermore, as a student, I wanted the opportunity to be guided by professionals who at one point may have faced similar career questions.

How has your mentor, Max, helped you throughout the past year?

Max really helped to make my experience in this program a success. Knowing that it is my ultimate goal to get a job in a public institution that will enable me help to my country, Max and I talked about how to accomplish my goals and discussed next steps. Max also challenged me to consider my ideal job and what kinds of tasks I like to perform, explaining that these will be important to shaping my goals. 

Given that public health law is still very new in Colombia and lawyers are generally employed for contract law or litigation by national, regional and municipal institutions (as well as hospitals and other health-focused organizations), Max really helped me to understand the different ways a lawyer can work in the public health law field. We also discussed how further academic programs in the United States might benefit my career. I feel like my mentorship relationship with Max gave me the perspective I needed as I begin to plan my path to a career in public health law.

Can you provide tips for future mentor/mentee pairs in the program?

I would encourage mentor/mentee pairs to take advantage of all the activities and resources that the Student Network offers. Consider the guidance that the Student Network provides at the beginning of the program and work with your mentor to develop a clear view of the goals for your mentorship relationship. For planning purposes, setting a shared calendar with tasks might be of great help.

I would also encourage mentees to ask lots of questions. Mentors are there to help you with your doubts. It is natural to be worried about how future decisions could impact your life and the more information you share with your mentor, the more valuable and productive the mentorship relationship will be. I’m grateful to the Student Network for giving me the chance to participate in this innovative and resourceful program.  

Learn more about Max Gakh, Johnattan's mentee, and his experience in the program.

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