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Public Health Law Mentorship: A Mentor's Perspective

posted on Wed, Aug 27 2014 11:25 am by Max Gakh

Max Gakh is a public health law professional currently working as Scholar in Residence at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. As part of this position, Max conducts research, teaches and serves the community in the area of public health law and policy. In this Q & A, Max shares his reflections on his experience as a mentor in the 2013/2014 Student Network Mentorship Program.

Tell us about your educational background.

I received a J.D. from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. I realized that I was interested in public health law when my work as an attorney involved public health and policy issues.  I then pursued an M.P.H. at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

Can you describe your early experiences in the public health law field?

As an M.P.H. student, I worked on public health law research with terrific faculty. After I completed my public health studies, I was selected to participate in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Visiting Attorney Program. In my role as a Visiting Attorney, I worked with the Partnership for Public Health Law in Washington, D.C., where I helped use law to promote the public’s health. The Partnership is a collaboration of the American Public Health Association, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and the National Association of Local Boards of Health. While with the Partnership, I had the valuable opportunity to work with these organizations to achieve common goals.

Why did you decide to become a mentor?

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have thoughtful and generous public health law mentors and colleagues who have helped guide and shape my career; I wanted to help someone else interested in this dynamic field.

How do you feel you were able to help your mentee, Johnattan, throughout the program?

Living on different continents, Johnattan and I got to know each other through Skype. I enjoyed helping Johnattan talk through his career goals and the practical steps he could take to learn more about public health law in Colombia and the U.S. I was able to draw on my own experiences to help think through answers to Johnattan’s questions about further education and internship opportunities.  

Talking with Johnattan gave me a tiny glimpse into public health law, legal education, and life in Colombia. I enjoyed hearing about Johnattan’s experiences in law school and contrasting them with my own. We often discussed the differences between the American and Colombian legal systems and how these differences played out in public health contexts. I also learned from Johnattan about the fundamental right to health in Colombia. These conversations challenged me to step back and think about public health law from a global perspective and what we in the U.S. can learn from the experiences of other countries. I am excited to stay in touch with Johnattan and see how his public health law career evolves.  

Can you provide tips for future mentor/mentee pairs?

I would encourage mentors and mentees to stay in constant contact. This will help the pair get to know each other well and adapt discussions and activities as interests and circumstances change. I would also encourage mentors and mentees to think creatively about their relationship – this includes honing in on the kind of assistance that would best serve the mentee and being resourceful in providing it. 

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

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