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Laura Berkson '12

Legislative Analyst, National Institutes of Health

Laura Berkson’s interest in health care began in high school when she volunteered at Boston’s prestigious Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her experience there sparked a passion for learning about all aspects of the field. As an undergraduate at Brandeis University, she chose to major in Health: Science, Society and Policy, a multidisciplinary health care major that exposes students to the biological, social, legal and economic dimension of health care.

While at Brandeis, Berkson completed several summer internships with Partners HealthCare, the integrated health system founded in Boston by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. Her work at Partners was centered on the implementation and utilization of the electronic health record, HIPAA, and regulatory compliance. She observed firsthand the direct impact policy has on the delivery of health care, inspiring her to pursue law.

Berkson found the Maurice A. Deane School of Law to be the perfect fit. In addition to its location near New York City, Hofstra Law had extensive course offerings in health law, and Berkson was excited to apply for the Health Law and Policy Fellowship. “I knew that the fellowship could open up doors for me and would give me the chance to focus my legal studies in health policy,” she says, “which I knew would serve as a solid foundation for my long-term career goals.”

One of the highlights of Berkson’s time at Hofstra Law was taking the Law and Medicine course taught by Janet L. Dolgin, the Jack and Freda Dicker Distinguished Professor of Health Care Law, director of the Gitenstein Institute of Health Law and Policy and co-director of the Hofstra University Bioethics Center.

Berkson says it was “really eye-opening” to be one of five law students going on grand rounds with medical students. “On the first day,” she recalls, “the med students were hesitant to be joined by law students, because they had a preconceived notion that if a lawyer was interested in health law, it meant that they wanted to sue them for malpractice.” But she found that as the weeks went on the two groups were able to collaborate and discuss various topics, including privacy, confidentiality, informed consent and mandatory reporting.

Berkson calls her experience as a Health Law and Policy Fellow working with Dolgin “fantastic,” adding that she was “an incredible professor — such a bright individual and one of the nicest people I ever met.” Dolgin, she continues, “was so supportive and always made sure I had the right tools to succeed.”

Being a Health Law and Policy Fellow prepared Berkson for her role as a Presidential Management Fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She completed a two-year postgraduate fellowship, rotating through several offices at NIH.

Berkson’s first rotation was at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, where she worked in the Office of Legislation and Public Policy. She had the opportunity to track bills that impact NIH, provide legislative analysis and attend congressional hearings, briefings and markups on Capitol Hill.

Berkson says that “having the legal foundation to understand how the legislative process works was vital. The experience I got as a Health Law and Policy Fellow has provided me with a foundation that will serve me well in my career.”