Where are you from, and why there?
I was born and raised in New York City, and have lived in Chicago since 2003. But the question is more complicated than it seems at first blush. My dad was raised in Nebraska and my mother in Michigan. My great-grandparents immigrated through Ellis Island from Denmark and the Ukraine. And I feel at home in France and Morocco. So like all of us, I’m a global citizen.
Which issue(s) do you work on/care about, and why?
I am the Director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. The Clinic works in a range of social justice arenas, including civil rights, environmental advocacy, juvenile justice and – my own particular focus – international human rights. I direct the Northwestern Access to Health Project, an interdisciplinary, global community-based partnership that advocates for health as a human right.
How did you get involved?
Between college and law school, I served in Morocco as a Peace Corps Volunteer, in the maternal and child health sector. I observed firsthand the extreme disparities in health outcomes, such as maternal mortality, and the social determinants of health, such as girls attending school. These are fundamental issues for which there is no excuse in today’s world.
What’s the biggest challenge for the issue(s) today?
To many Americans, the notion of health as a human right is alien. U.S. law has never treated access to health care as a right or entitlement. Most Americans are acculturated to think of civil and political freedoms, like free speech, when we think of human rights. Health care? That depends on your employer and insurance markets.
Who are your most frequent allies? Any surprises?
My most frequent allies are global health physicians who have experienced the challenges of health access around the world and appreciate that it may not be due merely to a lack of resources or technology, but also to multiple other considerations, including corruption, gender dynamics, governance and security, to name a few.
What drives you?
My colleagues and students at Northwestern inspire me every day, as does the example of my parents. My husband and three children both drive me to do the work I do, and also support me.
What do you want your career/advocacy to stand for?
If I can help others to understand the universal truth of the words of John F. Kennedy in his American University commencement address, known as the “Peace Speech,” I will be humbled:
For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.