Temple University Beasley School of Law and the Department of Public Health in the College of Health Professions offer a dual degree program leading to the conferral of both the Juris Doctor (J.D.) and the Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) upon graduation.
This year’s graduating class of 2019 included two J.D./M.P.H students, Kimya Forouzan and Priya Mehta. We asked them about their experience in the program, their interests, and what they’ll be doing with their degrees after graduation.
Kimya Forouzan (LAW ‘19)
Temple Law: You were incredibly involved during your time at Temple Law. How did you find a balance between your dual degree program, your extracurriculars, and your volunteering/service?
Kimya Forouzan: I think I’ve always been someone who has struggled with finding a work-life balance, so starting the J.D./M.P.H. program was really a wake up call that pushed me to prioritize this balance better than I had before. I found one of the most important aspects of this to be finding how my own personality fits into the quest for work-life balance. I came to realize that although I am generally an extroverted person, I also need down time to rest and relax by myself, even if that may not seem like the most fun option.
I also came to accept and realize that I’m very passionate about my work, so I shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to read about my interests in my time away from work, as long as it is balanced. I also came to rely on my Google calendar and to do lists broken down by each day of the week, which made my weeks run much more smoothly. By using those tools, I dedicated myself to whatever task, meeting, or event was scheduled for that time without distractions, and I was able to stop working after I completed my tasks for the day, knowing that that was enough to complete whatever I had to get done each week.
TL: As a J.D. student, you completed internships/clinicals for the Temple University Institute on Disabilities, the Temple Legal Aid Office, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Center for Public Health Law Research; were a Public Health Fieldwork Researcher for the Women’s Law Project; and as a 2016 Law & Public Policy Scholar, worked for the International Association of Women Judges. What did these experiences contribute to your legal education?
KF: My internships and clinicals were probably the most important part of my education. While our classes are obviously vital, I think internships and clinicals help expose you to the work you want to be doing when you graduate, as well as give you practical skills that you can apply to any legal job in the future.
All of my internships and clinicals provided me with amazing learning opportunities, but I would say that my internships with the National Women’s Law Center and my work at the Women’s Law Project were particularly notable. At the National Women’s Law Center, I really got my first taste of doing federal policy work. I found the workplace to be both challenging and stimulating, and I began to explore working in the reproductive rights field, which I continued to pursue.
At the Women’s Law Project, I completed my public health fieldwork. Fieldwork is a requirement of the M.P.H. program during which each student designs and completes a project over the course of one academic year with certain deliverables such as a literature review, data collection, and more. Because I knew that this project would take up the time I had for an internship for an entire academic year, I wanted to fuse my public health project with a legal issue, in order to continue building on my legal experience. As such, I focused my project on a needs assessment exploring the systems and resources in Pennsylvania county courts for minors seeking judicial bypass. Although there were many challenges along the way, it taught me a lot about fusing a public health approach and a legal approach to an issue, as well as the importance of being able to communicate about the law in clear terms to those who are not in the legal field.
TL: Your Law & Public Policy 2016 Scholar profile mentions that your policy focus is the intersection of gender-based violence and public health. How does your JD/MPH give you an advantage into understanding how to best work towards solutions for those issues?
KF: I entered law school interested in gender-based violence and public health; however, through my internship work, I came to shift my focus to reproductive rights and justice work. However, I know there is a lot of overlap on these two topics, so I remain very passionate about combating gender-based violence. I think my J.D./M.P.H. gives me an advantage because it fuses an understanding of how policies can be better shaped to meet people’s needs. Laws can be written and enacted with the best of intentions, but they may not fully reach the intended goals or have unintended consequences. I think a public health approach can help bridge some of those gaps.
TL: Which faculty members were most influential in shaping your legal education?
KF: Temple Law’s faculty members were probably one of my greatest resources during law school. There were so many who were integral in helping me reach my goals and shape my path. Professor Knauer and the Law & Public Policy Program were the catalysts for my career path and really pushing me to take the opportunities that would help build my legal experience. Professor Rebouche constantly provided me with irreplaceable advice when it came to pursuing my field of work. Professors Carpenter & Monroe provided me with a ton of help and boosts in confidence when I struggled with the course material during my 1L year. Professor Rand was an incredible clinical professor in the Community Lawyering Clinic and helped me understand the many factors, outside of just legal skills, that go into being an effective and kind lawyer. Professor Ramji-Nogales was a constant source of help at every turn, and it was my honor to serve with her and all of the other faculty and staff members on Dean Mandel’s working group on diversity & inclusion during my 3L year. It is difficult for me to stop listing faculty members, as so many faculty and staff members helped me along the way in ways I will always remember, but I will leave it at this!
TL: Tell us a bit about the work you will be doing at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum as a member of If/When/How’s Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program.
KF: Starting in late August, I will be working as a federal policy fellow through If/When/How’s Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). As the title suggests, I will be working on federal reproductive justice policy issues, namely reproductive health and rights, immigration, and economic justice work. Given the nature of this work, the landscape of work can change given what is happening politically, but I will be doing administrative law work related to any proposed rules, amicus brief work, and more. As part of the fellowship program, fellows also attend and present at various conferences throughout the year. I’m very excited to take on this role, and I’m grateful to both NAPAWF and If/When/How for giving me the opportunity.
Priya Mehta LAW ‘19
Temple Law: You were incredibly involved at Temple Law – a Moot Court Honor Society member, an SBA Honor Code Representative, a L&PP Scholar, Co-Chair for the SPIN auction, and Physical Wellness Co-Chair for the SWA. How did you find a balance between your dual degree program and your extracurriculars?
Priya Mehta: For me, time management was the key to my success. At some point during 1L, I realized that for me treating law school as a job worked for me, so I continued this trend during the rest of my years. I am meticulously organized, to the point that during law school I had my weekdays scheduled on an hourly basis starting at 5 am until 9 pm. I scheduled everything from my classes and meetings, including extracurriculars, to workouts. I tried to be very realistic with the goals that I set for each day, so that most days I was able to complete everything that I wanted to accomplish. Second, I always tried to take one day off during the week, usually a Saturday or a Sunday to give myself a much-needed mental break.
TL: As a JD student, you participated in the Elderly Law Clinical at Temple Law, were an intern for the Philadelphia Law Department, and as a 2018 Law & Public Policy Scholar worked for the Public Policy Center at the American Foundation for the Blind. What did these experiences contribute to your legal education?
PM: My time at each of my clinics and practicums contributed significantly to my legal education. The Elderly Law Clinical allowed me to provide direct services, which is something that I really enjoy. At the Philadelphia Law Department, I had my first court appearance where I argued a motion to quash. I also had the opportunity to research nuanced areas of the law, which I thought was interesting.
The Law & Public Policy Program was a really great opportunity for me because most of my experience working in policy was at Public Health Management Corporation, whereas I had worked in direct services at AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and Community Legal Services. I wanted to understand how another organization handled policy work and because I was involved in L&PP, I was able to do that at the American Foundation for the Blind. After talking to my mentors, I realized that I really wanted to practice law after graduation, although eventually I think I would like to be in a policy position.
TL: Your Law & Public Policy 2018 Scholar profile mentions that your policy interests are in access to health care, including Medicaid and Medicare, and concerns that affect public health, such as the opioid epidemic. How does your J.D./M.P.H. give you an advantage into understanding how to best work towards solutions for those issues?
PM: My J.D./M.P.H. allows me to bring a unique perspective to access to health care, including how substance use disorder should be handled. Personally, I have my own opinions on how access should be resolved, which are rooted in public health and international law; however, understanding the constitutional issues that access to health care creates and the cases that exemplify these issues will eventually help me work towards solutions, assuming I have the opportunity to be in a position that allows me to work on health care policy.
The internships and practicums that I have participated in have shown the negative and positive effects of the law on public health. For instance, while at Public Health Management Corporation I started researching substance abuse in pregnant women and the barriers they face in access to services. One thing I learned is that in some jurisdictions using substances while pregnant is considered child abuse or neglect, which is potentially one of the reasons why pregnant women may not access services. But there are also laws that help public health such as permitting needle exchange programs, which reduce the incidence of bloodborne conditions such as HIV.
TL: Which faculty member was most influential in shaping your legal education?
PM: The most influential faculty member is Professor Kroll. She has provided guidance and support over the years for which I am so thankful. At one point this year, when I was not a student of hers, she called me around 7:30 at night to talk about a fellowship that I was considering applying for and she spoke with me for over 30 minutes discussing the pros and cons. I am glad to have had the chance to take multiple classes with her.
TL: Tell us a bit about the work you will be doing for Vietnam Veterans of America.
PM: At Vietnam Veterans of America, I will be a National Appeals Attorney, and will be representing veterans who have been denied benefits by Veterans Affairs, ranging from health care services to other benefits to which they are entitled.
For more information on the J.D./M.P.H program, visit our website.