By Jessica Bushman, HLPC Clinic Student, Fall 2023
My semester in Harvard’s Health Law & Policy Clinic was unparalleled. Alongside the Hepatitis C Advocacy Project team, I worked to develop a set of strategies and tools advocates can use to promote more widespread adoption of policies that improve access to hepatitis C (HCV) testing and treatment. Specifically, I sought to understand how states can most effectively leverage Medicaid Section 1115 waivers to address, at least in part, the disproportionate concentration of HCV among people who experience incarceration. I enjoyed flexing my regulatory analysis skills while evaluating approved and proposed 1115 waivers and further honing my interview techniques while speaking with stakeholders about HCV care in Massachusetts.
After arriving at law school, I quickly discovered I belonged to the small group of students interested in a regulatory-based practice. I knew instinctively transactional lawyering wasn’t for me, and rather than putting out raging fires like litigators do, I prefer for much of my work to involve offering advice to prevent a fire from igniting in the first place. In addition, I’ve always been drawn to opportunities at the intersection of law, government, and policy. These interests, paired with my desire to enter a practice rooted in a swiftly evolving regulatory landscape and having a profound drive to expand health care accessibility after witnessing a family member fight a rare disease, made the Health Law & Policy Clinic the perfect fit.
In the clinic, my tendency to view things in black and white was repeatedly challenged. Whether I was analyzing California’s Section 1115 Implementation Plan to provide reentry health services or evaluating how Massachusetts could do the same, I rapidly realized my job was not to categorize any potential reform as good or bad. After all, for every reason an idea can be a good one, there are usually just as many reasons for the opposite to be true. In short, my takeaway from the clinic boils down to this: it is only in the gray area that the tough questions can be answered and the hard, yet crucial, work to expand HCV testing and treatment can be done.
While my clinical work itself was extraordinarily fulfilling, I would be remiss not to mention how much the Health Law & Policy Clinic staff contributed to a wonderful clinic experience. Each staff member, including my phenomenal supervisor Liz Kaplan, made a thoughtful effort to cultivate a culture of inclusivity and curiosity. Thus, along with the robust substantive opportunities that come with a clinic, also comes a community of individuals dedicated not only to strengthening your legal skills, but to supporting you throughout your law school journey.