OI: When did you first realize that a career at the intersection of public health and policy was a good fit for you?
It was during “Issues in Science,” an elective course that I took my senior year of high school. The course was an introduction to bioethics, and our thought-provoking discussions focused on the ethical dilemmas posed by euthanasia, stem cell research, abortion, organ transplants, etc. I became increasingly fascinated by how these complex health problems intersect with questions of morality, religion, economic inequality and human rights.
OI: What was your path to the O’Neill Institute?
I began my professional career with the NGO AmeriCares, identifying and responding to significant disparities in health globally through large-scale donations of medicines and medical supplies.My experience at AmeriCares not only strengthened my belief that access to basic health care services is a fundamental human right, but also convinced me of the need to work towards systemic change to address the root causes of poor health, particularly among women and girls. That realization prompted me to attend law school, where I focused my studies on understanding how law, particularly international human rights law, can be used as a tool for solving health problems at local, national and global levels.
During and following law school, I sought out opportunities to serve as an intern and consultant for nonprofit organizations working to advance the human rights of women and girls around the world, including Women’s Link World Wide and the Center for Reproductive Rights. Immediately prior to joining the O’Neill Institute, I was part of the advocacy team at International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region, advocating for the inclusion of sexual and reproductive rights in global and regional United Nations processes.
OI: Does your past professional experience bring a unique perspective or advantage to your work at O’Neill?
My past professional experiences have highlighted how important it is to build alliances and develop strong working relationships with partner organizations. I think having worked for NGOs engaged in advocacy at various levels (local, national, regional and international) has also given me a unique perspective on their legal research and analysis needs, and on how the O’Neill Institute can best use its resources toensure advocacy efforts are grounded in human rights principles and other legal norms.
OI: What is your current project at O’Neill?
I have had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects focused on the intersection of health and human rights since I joined O’Neill in 2014. I researched and analyzed the health-related human rights violations related to sexual violence committed against girls in Latin America, which supported advocacy before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, and other key stakeholders. I also helped prepare an Amicus Brief outlining international and regional human rights principles related to the provision comprehensive health services to survivors of sexual violence in Colombia, which was filed in support of litigation brought by Women’s Link Worldwide before the country’s Constitutional Court. In December of 2015, the Court ruled in Women’s Link’s favor, ruling that health care providers must provide survivors of sexual violence withimmediate, comprehensive, confidential, and free medical services.
OI: What are your other areas of interest?
A new topic of interest within the area of health and human rights is female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). I am excited to be collaborating with partners at Georgetown’s School of Medicine and the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics throughout the next year to research and analyze the complex medical-ethical-legal dilemmas faced by practicing clinicians who care for FGM/C patients.
OI: What excites you most about your work?
I love that this job allows me to think critically and creatively about emerging health problems, incorporate interdisciplinary and intersectional analyses into all of my projects, and work closely with colleagues who are equally passionate about global health law.
OI: Who do you admire and why?
I have so much respect and admiration for advocates who work at the grass-roots level to promote and protect the human rights of the most marginalized populations. The obstacles and risks that human rights defenders face on a daily basis are tremendous and I am humbled by their commitment to this important work.
OI: What book are you readingright now?
“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr.