Law, Medical School Representatives Meet State Legislators, Discuss Issues
LUKE GIBSON AND CAELIE HAINES
Faculty and students from the schools of law and medicine met with legislators in Annapolis recently as part of an annual series of “advocacy days” at the Maryland State House that includes each school at the University.
The visits provide a chance to discuss issues firsthand with lawmakers, and for law students, the added opportunity to shadow legislators-—many of them University of Maryland alumni-—to experience a day as an elected official.
On Jan. 23, after remarks from Phoebe A. Haddon, JD, LLM, dean of the Francis King Carey School of Law; Jay A. Perman, MD, president of the University; and law school alumnus Drew Vetter, JD ’11, deputy legislative officer for Governor Martin O’Malley, JD ’88-, 16 law students joined their legislator mentors to sit in on a legislative session and observe committee hearings.
“The day in Annapolis was an insightful experience into the state legislative process,” said Brenda Villanueva, law student and co-president of the University of Maryland Association of Legislative Law. “The biggest take-aways were reminders that a law degree can offer students a skill set and training that may come in handy even in the most unexpected situation.”
“It was gratifying and uplifting to see our students in Annapolis,” says Haddon. “Because Maryland is such a small and diverse state, this legislature offers students the opportunity of making a big impact on the legal process. Many model programs are developed here and implemented on a national level.” Photos from the day can be found on the law school’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/UMDLaw.
On Jan. 30, more than 40 medical students and faculty members along with Perman and E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, dean of the School of Medicine, John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, and vice president for medical affairs at the University, spoke with members of the Maryland General Assembly about issues of importance to the medical school.
They urged support for the governor’s budget, which would provide for expansion of biomedical research and more than $16 million to accelerate construction of Health Sciences Facility III-—a new research building at the University.
Students also talked about the importance of loan assistance and scholarship support, and lawmakers were urged to support funding for the University of Maryland cancer program, which has helped to dramatically reduce cancer deaths in Maryland to below the national average.
“It is important for you as students, and for faculty as well, to get the opportunity to not only visit our legislative leaders but at the same time, to share with them how we, as an institution, work,” Reece said to the group. “Many are aware that we exist and know in a broad-brush way what we do, but they very much appreciate hearing how our system works, how medicine works, and some of the challenges we have to overcome.”
Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, agreed. “It’s so important that we have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with you,” he told the medical students over breakfast. “You can share the role you will play as we roll out the Affordable Care Act in 2014. With all the medical needs we have out there, we don’t yet have an infrastructure for them in place. You are going to be a very important part of that, and you have to communicate that to your legislators.”
Michael Busch, speaker of the House of Delegates, said at the breakfast that legislators are “trying to make sure we get the resources to the University system, and to students and faculty, to make sure we have the best and the brightest choosing to practice in the state of Maryland.”
“It’s a great experience,” medical student Joe Mechak said about the day in Annapolis. “It gives us exposure to this world of politics with which we are not familiar. More importantly, it gives politicians insight into the world of medicine and the School of Medicine and what’s important to us.”
To see photos and videos from the School of Medicine advocacy day, visit http://somvweb.som.umaryland.edu.
Ronald Hube contributed to this article.