In Fall 2019, a group of 12 first-year students explored the legal needs that can emerge in the wake of natural disasters and humanitarian crises as part of their Gerber Law-Medicine Fellowships, a program that provides significant scholarship and stipends for students with outstanding academic credentials and an interest in pursuing a career in health law
Working with Professor Benjamin Faller from CWRU’s Kramer Law Clinic, the Fellows met regularly to discuss and develop an understanding of the role of lawyers in helping individuals and populations meet legal needs and cope with challenging circumstances, exploring topics such as client-centered lawyering, multi-jurisdictional practice, interprofessional collaborative practice and case studies from coordinated legal responses to previous natural disasters.
The centerpiece of their exploration, however, was participation in a multi-day interprofessional training in October 2019 with healthcare professionals titled Caring for Children and Families in Humanitarian Emergencies. Featuring presentations and sessions from humanitarian healthcare and public health experts from around the world, the training was presented by University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, MetroHealth, and the Cleveland Clinic, in partnership with Case Western Reserve University and Health Frontiers.
The Gerber Fellows engaged in the sessions, participated in group problem-solving on case studies and explored ethical and practical elements of providing care for people in low-resources environments.
Critically, they were also able to connect with a wide range of health professionals and work together as interprofessional teams. The Fellows then came back together in the law school, where they reflected on their experience, assembled their research, and collaboratively formulated a framework for assessing how law students and lawyers might help in responding to such a crisis.
"Being able to effectively work with and among other professions can help lawyers – and law students – provide effective legal services in times of crisis,” said Faller. “Disasters, natural or otherwise, have a tendency to amplify all kinds of human needs. In the wake (or midst) of a crisis, people need help putting their interrupted lives back together. Doing so involves a range of interactions with the law and creates a tremendous need for legal assistance, especially among populations already vulnerable."
The 2019 CWRU Gerber Fellows were:
- Samantha Crane
- Alexandra Moore
- Heather Hoden
- Valera Ghali
- Audrey O'Brien
- Chris Switzer
- Ester Khaykin
- Meghan Sink
- Mason Myers
- Elena Barone
- Zoe Suntheimer
- Madeline Clabough