The Temple Health Law Society hosted its first ever alumni career panel featuring Josephine Torrente LAW ‘97, Kelly Thompson LAW ‘13, and Theresa Brabson LAW ‘13. The panel was held a week after Temple was ranked 24th in Healthcare Law in the 2019 U.S. News and World Report – its debut ranking in this category. In light of this achievement, Temple Law Professor and Director of the Center for Public Health Law Research, Scott Burris, stopped by the event to personally thank the panelists. Burris said that Temple Law’s growing reputation in this field can be attributed to both the success of its graduates and the HLS.

Torrente, who is currently a partner at  Hyman, Phelps and McNamara, P.C., came to Temple with nearly eight years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Upon graduation, Torrente worked on corporate transactions in Philadelphia, but eventually pursued her passion to work on FDA related projects in D.C. Torrente’s work often involves counseling mid-sized, or even start-up companies, on how to get their  innovative drugs and products approved as safe and effective by FDA standards. This often means battling with FDA overreaching, bureaucracy, and even personal biases. For instance, Torrente recounts how the distribution of drugs such as ‘the female viagra’ and ‘Plan B’ were held up due to misogyny within federal agencies. Despite these struggles and the heavy time commitment, Torrente said that the most rewarding part of her career is winning a case that allows important drugs and therapies to reach patients in need.

Thompson works as  a policy analyst for the Public Health Management Corporation. While at Temple, she initially wanted to explore a career in public defense because of her long held desire to “break down some of the factors that lead people to crime and lead us to deal so unfairly with people who have committed crimes.” However, she notes that because her job entails analyzing policies that do impact people and criminal justice, she’s been lucky to find an indirect method of working in public defense. Thompson does admit that the lack of direct services in her position is challenging. However, the joy of having teammates with diverse professional backgrounds makes up for it ten-fold. She likes to refer to her team as “legal generalists” in the sense that they are constantly learning about all different areas of law.

Brabson has wanted to pursue a career in public interest law since before her time at Temple and is now a staff attorney at the Legal Clinic for the Disabled.  Much of Brabson’s work is focused on the social determinants of health. This a relatively new field that views health as a product of a person’s environment, as much as their biology. Brabson works on site at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, where she screens primarily low income families and their living situation. She also attends court cases with the families that range from landlord-tenant issues to custody hearings. Brabson encounters the regular societal challenges of working in public interest, namely bureaucracy and the lack of empathy towards children and families whose health outcomes are impacted by the Philadelphia eviction crisis. Brabson notes solemnly that while she’s not the first person her clients come to for help, she is often the the first person who has listened and taken active steps towards solving their problems.

The panelists gave students a plethora of professional advice to assist them as they embark upon potential careers in Healthcare Law. Perhaps the most prudent was when Torrente reminded students that they deserve a satisfying and fulfilling career, and that it’s their responsibility to go out there and get one.

~Amy Dean, Staff Writer