Beginning this fall, Temple Law students will have the opportunity to engage with one of Philadelphia’s most tireless public servants and learn about her vision of how public health law can aid Philadelphians in need. Nan Feyler, whose most recent post as Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Programs at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health caps more than 25 years of service in the public interest sector, has been appointed as the Phyllis W. Beck Chair in Law for the 2015-2016 academic year.
“I’m excited to be here,” said Feyler, “both for what I want to accomplish and what I want to learn. I want to teach about how public health law can address some of the complex problems facing our communities. But I also want to learn how to bring an experiential focus to that process, so that students are building skills and knowledge while working to address some of the problems they learn about in class.”
“Professor Feyler brings a wealth of experience across a broad spectrum of advocacy roles: from litigation to drafting legislation to acting within local government as a regulator,” remarked Dean JoAnne Epps. “I’m delighted that our students will have this opportunity to learn from her about how law can be a tool for systemic change.”
Feyler’s unique range of experience includes a deep understanding of the many aspects of poverty law, including criminal defense, public benefits, disabilities law, civil rights, prisoners’ and ex-offenders’ rights, housing, and immigrants’ rights. She hopes to bring that expertise to a practicum, currently in development, that would address the impact of housing quality on children’s health in Philadelphia.
Feyler has been a presence in Philadelphia’s public interest legal community since she came to the city as an attorney with the Defender Association of Philadelphia. She went on to lead two important Philadelphia non-profits: the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and the Nationalities Services Center, which provides legal and social services to immigrants and refugees in the Philadelphia region. After earning her Master’s in Public Health, Feyler joined the Philadelphia Department of Public Health where she served as the Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Programs from 2008 until 2015. The many programs Feyler managed for the department include maternal, child and family health; lead poisoning prevention; environmental health services; food safety; air management; AIDS activities coordination; and disease control.
Feyler has also been a regular contributor to The Public’s Health, a popular blog hosted by the Philadelphia Inquirer, a role she plans to maintain. “One of the great things about contributing to the blog is the opportunity to get people to think about the importance of public health by reflecting on complex and sometimes provocative issues affecting society today,” noted Feyler. “I hope to do some of that in my time here as well.”
The Beck Professorship is an endowed faculty position designed to bring notable public interest visitors to Temple Law for one or two semesters during which they teach, conduct research and collaborate with fellow faculty and students. Prior Beck Professors have included Carrie Menkel Meadow, Theodore M. Shaw, Sylvia Law, Mark Heywood, Emeritus Professor Frank McClellan, and Ann S. Torregrossa.
As for Professor Feyler, her current plans include teaching a course in public health law in the fall semester and delivering the Beck Lecture to the law school community in the spring. In addition to the practicum currently in development, Feyler is exploring collaborations with and between the Center for Health Law, Policy, and Practice and the Sheller Center for Social Justice.
“My career has been built around advocacy on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in our community, said Feyler. “I’m hopeful that this time at Temple will become a bridge to even greater opportunities to create systemic change on behalf of those who need it most while providing a valuable educational experience for our students.”