Class Of 2018
Law & Public Health
Will Shefelman, JHU ’18, JHSPH MPH ’21, JD ’22 completed a four year dual law degree and master of public health program at the Georgetown University Law Center and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. We asked him a few questions about his experiences and plans.
1. Upon graduating college, what type of job/experience/school did you pursue? What are your plans upon graduating from law school?
After graduating from Johns Hopkins, I worked as the staff assistant in Representative Kathleen Rice’s DC office in the United States House of Representatives. I had worked for Representative Rice as an intern over the summer between junior year and senior year at Hopkins. The summer that I was interning on Capitol Hill, I lived in Baltimore and took the MARC train down to DC each morning. I highly recommend that undergrad students try to take advantage of their proximity to DC while in undergrad. Also, spending a summer (or three!) in Baltimore can be such a fun way to experience Hopkins and Baltimore. The summers that I spent in the Baltimore area were some of my favorite memories from my time at Hopkins.
After graduating from law school, I will be working at a law firm in New York City. I am planning on joining a large law firm’s health care practice. I hope to get to use a wide range of skills I have developed in both law school and my time studying public health at Johns Hopkins as both an undergraduate student and later at the graduate level. By working in an industry specific practice at a law firm, I am looking forward to developing skills both as a corporate attorney and also getting exposure to working on litigation.
2. How did your time at JHU develop your interest in this field and prepare you for this career path?
There is no better place to be a curious person than Johns Hopkins. When I started at Johns Hopkins as a classics major, I was captivated by Ancient Greek, Latin, mythology, and really everything in the antiquities. From my first classes freshman year, I loved the passion that professors and the intimate cohort of classics students brought to our small classics seminars. The classics program helped me to develop as a careful writer and built up my love of language. It was from my time in these classes that I began to see how a love of language and attention to linguistic detail could lead to a successful and fulfilling career as an attorney.
Towards the end of freshman year, I also wanted to explore the many offerings at Hopkins outside of the classics program. I enrolled in an introductory public health course because I wanted to see what made our school the best public health school in the world. I loved the variety of topics that I found in public health. There was no field that I could think of that would let me study such a wide variety of topics including biology, public policy, statistics, economics, and epidemiology. I was fascinated that public health also offered a way to direct your academic studies and work at improving the lives of people around you. My desire to pursue a joint degree in law and public health flows naturally from how much I enjoyed the variety of topics I studied in undergrad. As a lawyer I will get to practice the particular writing and critical reading skills I developed translating Plato’s Ion or the Iliad’s catalogue of ships with Dr. Yatromanolakis. By coupling skills with my background in public health, such as the knowledge of biology that I began to develop in the massive lecture halls of Dr. Pearlman and Professor Roberson, I have uniquely situated myself for an exciting career in the field of health law.
3. How have your studies and experiences deepened your understanding of the field of public health? In what ways?
The opportunity to take classes at the Bloomberg School of Public Health as a senior was one of my favorite experiences as an undergraduate student for two reasons. First, the students and professors in the classes at BSPH were some of the brightest and most fascinating group of people I had ever had the opportunity to learn from. In once class in particular, Bioethics, Human Rights, and Global Health with Professor Leonard Rubenstein, the class was made up of about five undergraduate students, and then a mix of about twenty doctors, nurses, bioethicists, and other health professionals. The conversations, expertise, and passion that my classmates brought to this class solidified my budding desire to return to Bloomberg as a masters student. The second reason I loved taking classes at Bloomberg as a senior was because it proved how much as I had grown as a student of public health from the undergraduate studies program. While this bioethics class, and the other courses I took as a senior were challenging, I never felt that I was entirely out of my element because of the knowledge I had built up over the previous three years.
During my JD/MPH program, I also had the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant to Dr. Bulzacchelli’s Introduction to Public Health course. This class was similar to the captivating public health course that I took as a freshman. Although I was leading seminars remotely on Zoom during the 2020-2021 school year, I felt that I had come full circle in my public health education. I was teaching students who were in the exact position I had been five years earlier. I was facilitating conversations about the ongoing pandemic and introducing the basics of epidemiology to students with the same curiosity I had about public health when I was in their position. This process made me so excited to see what each of these students will do in their careers— be it in public health or another field.
4. Any advice for PHS undergraduates as they navigate how and what to pursue after JHU?
Stay curious and optimistic. Curiosity was the key to finding exciting new opportunities at Hopkins and that does not change after graduation. Throughout law school and my time at the Bloomberg School of Public Health staying curious and optimistic encouraged me to take classes I thought would be challenging, apply to schools I didn’t think get into, and apply to jobs that I did not think I would be able to get. Then, when I find myself in these positions, I try my best to stay optimistic about my success and to find joy in whatever the work is.
For a student applying to jobs or continuing their education after JHU, apply to positions you don’t think you will get and try to enjoy that process. You are applying as a curious and successful learner with the full support of the Johns Hopkins community behind you. Once you finally get one of these positions (and you will!), try to enjoy whatever it is that you are doing. It might not be your ideal job, but if you treat it like it is, you will enjoy it more, you will excel in your work, and you will be that much closer to finding your dream position.