May 5, 2017 — Three University of Houston Law Center students' devotion to health law and policy led them to the Texas State Capitol for an inside look at the state legislature.
Third-year students Torie Berkowitz, Bobby Joe Dale and Jack Frazee took on various assignments in their health law fellowships, in a program sponsored by the Law Center's Health Law & Policy Institute.
"Since 1998, we have placed 37 Health Law Legislative Fellows with health committees and chairs in the Texas Legislature," said Allison Winnike, research director and professor of the Health Law & Policy Institute. "These highly-qualified J.D. and LL.M. students and alumni play an instrumental role in health legislative drafting and policymaking at the state level by assisting members and their staff on key health issues.
"This year's three fellows have admirably carried on the long tradition of professionalism, talent and skill displayed by our fellows. I have heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from their bosses on how impressively these fellows have performed. This unique experience provides a strong foundation for their future legal careers."
Berkowitz has spent her fellowship working with the Senate Health and Human Services Commission, which is chaired by Sen. Charles Schwertner R-Georgetown. She has worked on a variety of issues, including medical marijuana, the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task force and telemedicine.
"Through my position, I have helped draft bills, met with special interest groups, and assisted Senator Schwertner in laying out bills both in committee and on the Senate floor," Berkowitz said. "I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity to work in the Texas Senate this session. I know that this experience will continue to benefit my career in health law long after the session is over."
Dale worked as a legislative aide in the office of Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston. In this role Dale handles health care issues and assists the chief of staff with work on appropriations issues.
In this session, he has worked on issues with foster care, immunizations, mental health and women's health. Dale's responsibilities included meeting with stakeholders on pending legislation, researching policy issues and drafting legislative memoranda, and preparing talking points and briefing materials for committee hearings and floor action.
In addition to learning about substantive health and human services law and policy, Davis' work as chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II deals with the health and human services portion of the state budget.
"This has provided me with a unique opportunity to learn more about the budgetary aspects of health law and policy," Dale said. "This work has solidified my desire to pursue a career in health law, especially in the legislative or policy arena.
"My coursework, especially in health law and policy, at the Law Center has helped prepare me to hit the ground running in my fellowship. I am very grateful to the Health Law & Policy Institute for this once in a lifetime opportunity."
Frazee has been working with Rep. Garnet Coleman D-Houston, acting as his health policy analyst and monitoring the House Public Health Committee on which he serves. As health policy analyst, Frazee works on public health bills, drafting statutory language and helps usher bills through the legislative process. He has had the opportunity to work on various issues ranging from HIV data collection to treating the opioid addiction crisis.
"I came to the University of Houston Law Center with the specific goal of getting into the Texas Legislature to work on emerging healthcare issues," Frazee said. "The Law Center's Health Law & Policy Institute gave me the opportunity to realize that goal and the experience has been incredible.
"This fellowship has given me a deeper knowledge of our political system, the healthcare needs of Texans, and the internal rules of the Capitol. I will leave this experience with a greater appreciation of all Texans, many of whom engage in passionate advocacy at the Capitol fighting for what they believe is right."