Third Year Review
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department of Public Policy
Benjamin Mason Meier, JD, LLM, PhD
Third Year Review
As part of a university-wide initiative to strengthen UNC scholarship in global health, the Gillings School of Global Public Health supported the Department of Public Policy in developing an interdisciplinary faculty position in global health policy. Given my doctoral work at the intersection of political science and public health—serving as Columbia’s doctoral student commencement speaker, giving a valedictory address on “Disciplinary Training for an Interdisciplinary World”—UNC selected me for this new position, translating my training across disciplines to study the public policy frameworks necessary for global health. UNC has proven an ideal home for this interdisciplinary work, providing me with the tools to pursue an innovative series of research projects, professional engagements, and teaching opportunities.
Through my interdisciplinary research—at the crossroads of international law, public policy, and global health—I work collaboratively across UNC’s Department of Public Policy and Gillings School of Global Public Health to advance human rights frameworks for national and global health policy. Writing and presenting extensively on the development, evolution, and application of human rights to health governance, with ongoing projects and professional engagements at the intersection of health and human rights, I serve as a consultant to international organizations, national governments, and nongovernmental organizations. As a professor of new courses in Justice in Public Policy, Global Health Policy, and Health & Human Rights, I contribute to core and elective bases of the Public Policy curriculum. Through these research, practice, and teaching innovations, I am attempting to realize the interdisciplinary basis for my hiring – working across disciplines at UNC to build a center of excellence in health and human rights.
I. Academic Research
My research agenda seeks to explore the intersection of health and human rights – advancing human rights theory for health, applying human rights to global health policy, and communicating perspectives in rights-based global health policy debates. Indicative of my work at the forefront of the discipline, I have published repeatedly in the leading journal in my field, Health and Human Rights: An International Journal, serving in the last two years as the lead author for articles in each of the Journal’s three sections: Critical Concepts, Health and Human Rights in Practice, and Perspectives. Extending this theoretical and applied scholarship, I have contributed research articles to journals in the disciplines of law, history, human rights, health policy, and public health. Through this passionate engagement with theory, application, and policy—with my research frequently cited in academic publications, policy briefs, and civil society advocacy—I endeavor both to study human rights debates and to become an active participant in these debates, serving as an academic foundation of global efforts to realize the highest attainable standard of health for all.
A. Theoretical Advancement
In my theoretical research, I have sought to explore both the evolution and the limitations of human rights law in global health policy. Beginning in the years leading up to my doctoral dissertation, during which time I was twice presented with Columbia’s Elinson Award for Best Public Health Article by a Graduate Student, I have studied the limitations of the individual right to health in responding to the public health harms of a globalized world, using my dissertation research to understand better how these limitations were historically constructed through policy conflicts in the development of international law. With this dissertation tying together my previous legal training and theoretical analyses, I have continued to employ this historical grounding on the evolution of the right to health to understand the theoretical underpinnings of a human right to public health, the right to development, and a broader focus on norms as a basis for global health policy.
1. Evolution of the Human Right to Health
My dissertation research explores the history and evolution of the human right to health in global health governance. Supported by a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) in International Development and Globalization and a travel grant from Columbia University’s Earth Institute, this historical research investigated the archives of the United Nations and World Health Organization, examining the causes and effects of the World Health Organization’s early contributions to and subsequent abandonment of the evolution of health rights. It was this research that I presented as part of my UNC interview, and I have gone on to present aspects of this research at conferences across a wide range of disciplines, including the International Congress on Law and Mental Health (New York, New York), the International Conference on Realizing the Rights to Health and Development for All (Hanoi, Vietnam), the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting (Denver, Colorado), the Invited Meeting on Writing the History of International Health Agencies (Toronto, Canada), the Unite for Sight Global Health/Innovate Conference (New Haven, Connecticut), and the Invited Meeting on Health Rights in Global Historical Perspective (London, England). Finding that the World Health Organization abandoned human rights discourse during crucial years in the policy advancement of the human right to health—out of political expediency, legal incapacity, and medical supremacy—this conclusion has challenged the history of human rights for health and problematized how current policy is shaped by historical debates.
Translating my dissertation manuscript into publishable articles, I sought to publish the legal aspects of this research as a longer “law review” style article in the Stanford Journal of International Law. To reach audiences outside of the legal academy, I worked with editors in the UK to publish another part of my research as a book chapter in Global Health and Human Rights (Routledge: 2010). As I explore the historical aspects of this research, I am currently publishing a counterfactual narrative, one that was not a part of my dissertation, in Social History of Medicine, analyzing the benefits that accrued to WHO when it embraced human rights in the pursuit of global health policy. This line of historical inquiry continues. With the subject matter of my dissertation research concluding in 1980 (limited by an embargo period with the WHO archives), I am currently continuing my archival work during my research and study leave, employing a development grant from UNC’s Center for AIDS Research (and subsequent trips to the WHO archives) to analyze how the 1981 advent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic altered the evolution of human rights, reestablishing the right to health as a normative framework for global health policy.
2. Development of a Human Right to Public Health
This dissertation research was explored as means of tracing how the policy evolution of the right to health led it to be normatively incomplete in addressing underlying determinants of health, focusing on individual medical treatments at the expense of public health systems. To conceptualize this contemporary incompleteness in addressing the public health harms of a globalized world, I published an early article in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review to justify the need for a collective right to public health – a right applied at the societal level to address underlying determinants of the public’s health. Clarifying the theoretical scope and content of such a right, I developed an article for the Cornell International Law Journal to circumscribe this right in human rights jurisprudence, distinguish it from the individual right to health, and detail the public health policy necessary for its realization. As a means to reach a public health audience with this legal theory discourse, I was asked to develop a shorter article in the health policy literature, combining these ideas in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. While these articles were written in the years leading up to the completion of my dissertation, these articles continue to resonate in the public health and human rights literatures, to inspire critical questions for future research and advocacy, and to frame my current thinking on rights-based global health policy.
3. Employing the Human Right to Development for Public Health Promotion
Further exploring the potential of collective human rights to address the health harms of a globalized world, I have also come to examine the role of the collective human right to development as a tool for global health policy. With poverty and inequality constituting fundamental determinants of poor health and insurmountable obstacles to developing states in improving the health of their peoples, it became clear that rights-based economic development would need to be examined through the lens of public health. Working with a fellow doctoral student (and now a fellow faculty member), we have collaborated thus far in developing three manuscripts on economic development policy, publishing: in Human Rights Quarterly to outline the interactions between the right to health and the right to development; in Bioethics to clarify the application of the right to development to public health systems; and in Health and Human Rights to conceptualize the international obligations inherent in the realization of the human right to development. As this tripartite research agenda has developed, it has refocused scholarship at the intersection of health and human rights, moving rights-based research away from health services for medical care and toward health systems for underlying determinants of health. Justifying the evolution of human rights to encompass collective human rights (often referred to as third generation rights), this research continues to be presented repeatedly at health and human rights conferences throughout the world and to influence my departmental collaborations on rights-based approaches to development.
4. Conceptualizing a Normative Turn in Global Health Governance
With this greater understanding of the origins, developments, and limitations of the human rights framework, I am currently attempting to propose a more expansive research agenda on the role of norms in global health – an alternative narrative to the realist “power politics” vision of global health policy that has long prevailed in the international health law literature. Asked to contribute a chapter to the current Yearbook of International Law and Jurisprudence (OUP: 2012), I am seeking as part of my research and study leave to frame a constructivist perspective in international relations for global health. This developing manuscript, “Global Health Takes a Normative Turn: The Expanding Purview of International Public Health Law to Address the Health Threats of the 21st Century,” concludes that as global health policy frameworks move beyond national interests (responding to the harms of globalization to achieve a more just world), policies for global health are no longer confined to the health sector or to international legal frameworks, with the “new international public health law” providing a normative basis for a healthier world in a decentralized global health policy landscape.
B. Policy Application
Beyond theoretical analysis, I am also seeking to understand how human rights are applied in the development of global health policy. This applied aspect of my research is one the principal reasons that I pursued a faculty position in the Department of Public Policy, with my scholarship seeking not merely to engage in abstract theoretical research but to analyze the application of that interdisciplinary research to the multisectoral policies that affect lives around the globe. In the steady expansion of my applied research, I now take an active research role in studying the development of rights-based policies for tobacco control, women’s and children’s health, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, and domestic health care.
1. Tobacco Control Policy
With my public policy research originating in the global response to tobacco use—an unparalleled threat to global health, estimated to kill over one billion in the 21st century—my work on tobacco control stems from my earliest days as a doctoral student, when I was asked to assist the World Health Organization as it sought to promulgate its first international treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. As a Legal Officer Fellow in WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, I was able to see firsthand the weaknesses of this new treaty, weaknesses that I found to be driven by a pointed effort to avoid the legal obligations of human rights. Seeking to apply the human right to health as a means to facilitate individual health autonomy and frame global health policy, I developed an article on tobacco cessation policy in the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law & Ethics and an article on harm reduction policy in Public Health Reports, thereafter giving a keynote address at the Tobacco and Human Rights Roundtable at the University of Minnesota and serving as a consultant to the Human Rights & Tobacco Control Network in its formal proposals to develop rights-based Protocols to the Framework Convention. It was these early studies, highlighting both the promise of human rights and the limits of the individual right to health, that convinced me of the need to conceptualize a collective human right to public health.
2. Women’s and Children’s Health Policy
As part of my focus on the normative evolution of human rights, I was asked to contribute to the application of human rights for women’s health, analyzing the evolution of human rights for women’s health in Women’s Global Health and Human Rights (Jones and Bartlett: 2009) and applying these rights to girl child soldiers in the Australian Journal of Human Rights. Upon my arrival at UNC, it was suggested that I apply these frameworks to the development of global breastfeeding policy, exploring the human rights violations implicated by the marketing of breastmilk substitutes (estimated to kill over 5 million each year in the developing world). Over the course of my first year at UNC, I worked with the Director of the UNC Breastfeeding Institute to develop a lengthy law review article on rights-based approaches to global breastfeeding policy reform, presenting this research at Case Western Reserve University and publishing this work in the Case Western Law Review. In an effort to provide a presentation opportunity to a doctoral student who worked with me in developing the policy narrative for this study, I sponsored Carolyn Huang in presenting this research at the 2010 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting.
3. HIV/AIDS Policy
Developing close ties to UNC’s Center for Infectious Diseases and Center for AIDS Research, I have become increasingly involved in the application of human rights to HIV/AIDS policy and have explored this new area of expertise through a series of research projects, conference presentations, and scholarly publications. Asked to organize a panel on global HIV/AIDS policy for the 2010 Conference of the Society of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, “Using Law, Policy, and Research to Improve the Public’s Health,” I developed a manuscript on human rights litigation as a means to HIV policy, publishing this research in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. Continuing this work as part of a development grant from UNC’s Center for AIDS Research, I began work on a human rights basis for HIV prevention policy, crafting a manuscript with the Executive Director of the Global Campaign for Microbicides and a doctoral student in UNC’s Department of Maternal and Child Health. Having presented on this research at UNC and Yale University, this finalized manuscript has been submitted to the Journal of the International AIDS Society. In an effort to provide an opportunity to the graduate student who worked with me in developing the policy narrative for this study, I sponsored Kristen Brugh in presenting this research at the 2010 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting.
4. Domestic Health Law
Prior to beginning my academic position in global health policy, I had already established a strong body of research in domestic health policy. In my role as the Public Health Law Manager at Columbia University’s Center for Health Policy, I led a series of studies on emergency preparedness law (publishing an article in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics), health care-associated infection laws (publishing an article in the American Journal of Infection Control), and state public health law reform (completing a two-year Robert Wood Johnson study of state public health policy efforts and publishing a series of articles in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy & Law, Public Health Reports, and the American Journal of Public Health). As I completed this domestic public health law work and moved to Chapel Hill, I finalized a two-article series seeking to tie public health law reform to the performance of state health departments, with these qualitative and quantitative research articles published back-to-back in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.
While I have since sought to pare down this domestic line of research (albeit with occasional domestic law conversations with the North Carolina Institute for Public Health), I have continued to accept manuscript requests where my interest in the application of human rights norms intersects with domestic health law. Tied to the development of federal health care reform efforts pursuant to the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I have been asked to develop chapters on human rights in domestic health policy for Rights Based Approaches to Health (Springer: 2010) and for Debates on U.S. Health Care Reform (Sage: 2012), presenting on these chapters respectively at the Global Health/Innovate Conference and American Public Health Association Annual Meeting. Given these continuing opportunities to investigate the application of human rights in domestic health policy, my ongoing participation in domestic health law scholarship complements my global health policy research and allows me to remain connected to U.S. health policy networks.
C. Policy Debates
With human rights rapidly evolving as a normative framework for global health policy, I have taken an active role in policy discourse to improve global health. In an effort to participate in these pressing public policy debates, I have sought to develop my ideas on health and human rights in non-research sections of the academic literature – publishing Correspondence in Lancet on rights-based policy reform, a Letter in the Hastings Center Reports on the connections between human rights and bioethics, and a Perspective in Health and Human Rights on the Commission on Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health. Engaging the public, I have: given interviews that contributed to publications in the World Policy Journal and Scientific American, participated in an hour-long radio interview with WCOM’s Ethics Matters program, and spoken about policy issues in UNC-produced videos on global health. Communicating outside of traditional media channels, I maintain constant communication with the health and human rights communities through my Twitter feed, my Facebook page, and my personal website (and the new Facebook page and website that I am developing for the Department). My hope is that these avenues of communication prove relevant to the advancement of public policy debates for global health policy.
II. Professional Engagement
Facilitating and strengthening my interdisciplinary research, engagement with professional communities has allowed me to structure the academic disciplines in which I work, develop additional research collaborations, and contribute to the advancement of global and national rights-based policy. To accomplish these professional goals, I have taken a leadership role in the academic public health community, collaborated with global health practitioners in North Carolina, consulted with the World Health Organization, and assisted national governments in Sub-Saharan Africa.
A. Public Health Organizations
While I maintain affiliations with a number of public health organizations and attend a number of public health conferences, my leadership in the academic public health policy community has been built around my active participation with the American Public Health Association and Association of Schools of Public Health. As a member of the American Public Health Association, I have long been engaged with the Health Law Special Interest Group, which I joined as a student, became the editor for its online newsletter, worked my way up to its leadership board, and now represent before the APHA Governing Council. As part of my APHA Health Law work, I have successfully advocated to have a panel at the APHA Annual Meeting devoted to international law and public health, serving as either moderator or presenter on this panel in each of the last four years. Based upon this experience, I was invited to join APHA’s International Human Rights Committee, through which I have organized Annual Meeting panels on the Human Right to Water, the Right to Development, and Human Rights & Mental Health. As part of this human rights work with APHA, I was asked to contribute two chapters to an APHA book project on Rights Based Approaches to Public Health (Springer: 2010). With my two-year term with the Human Rights Committee recently renewed, I look forward to continuing my fruitful collaborations across law and human rights within the American Public Health Association and continuing to participate in the APHA Annual Meeting, the world’s largest gathering of public health academics and practitioners. Supporting this academic work across global health, I have also begun a project with the Association of Schools of Public Health, working on its Global Health Competency Project. Based upon a study that I led on identifying necessary competencies for doctoral student training in interdisciplinary health research (publishing an article in the Journal of Allied Health), I have become a key informant in seeking to develop competency-based education for master’s level education in global health. As a member of the Equity and Social Justice Committee, we have met throughout the past two years to define a set of competencies for normative training in global health, recently releasing our final results as part of the larger Draft Global Health Competency Model Version 1.0.
B. North Carolina Global Health Community
Beginning with an early opportunity to represent UNC at the 2009 Consortium of Universities for Global Health, I have become deeply involved in the interdisciplinary global health work that is taking place in North Carolina. Coordinated through the Triangle Global Health Consortium, I have taken advantage of opportunities to engage with global health practitioners in the Research Triangle, using these connections to facilitate practitioner trainings, research collaborations, and student internships. In this context, I was asked to contribute research on the role of North Carolina in the evolving global health policy agenda under the Obama Administration’s Global Health Initiative, working with a UNC graduate student to present this research at the North Carolina Public Health Association Meeting and publish an article in a special issue of the North Carolina Medical Journal. Extending these collaborations on-campus, I have worked with various student committees at the Gillings School of Global Public Health and coached finalist UNC teams in both years of the inter-university Global Health Challenge.
C. World Health Organization
As a consultant to World Health Organization, I have sought to put my academic research into professional practice, serving as the longtime leader of a multi-institution effort to develop the Health & Human Rights Law Database. Conceived when I was still a doctoral student, it was clear that despite international evolution in health-related human rights and jurisprudential advances in creating accountability for these rights, there existed no comprehensive assessment of either the substantive content of these legal instruments or the enforcement claims litigated under these human rights standards. In response to this need, the World Health Organization came together with the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University to develop a searchable Health and Human Rights Law Database to document and catalogue the intersection between health and human rights in case law, international instruments, and national constitutions. Over the past four years, I have served as a Scholar at the O’Neill Institute, leading a team of researchers to compile and summarize legal advancements at the intersection of health and human rights, with this Database: providing a research base for assessments of rights-based accountability efforts, allowing for legal reasoning across national contexts to serve as precedents in future cases, and supporting comparative analysis of similar health claims in different country contexts. As this effort nears completion (having met with the collaborators in Washington, New York, and Geneva, presented our findings at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, and completed our peer review survey of experts throughout the world), we will soon be launching the Database online, publishing a December 2011 article on the development of the Database in Health & Human Rights: An International Journal, and holding a Spring 2012 conference to discuss the implications of the Database for the future of litigation-based advocacy at the intersection of health and human rights.
D. National Governments
Given my longstanding work in studying policies for research ethics in Sub-Saharan Africa, with my first health policy articles (in the Berkeley Journal of International Law and the American Journal of Law & Medicine) examining violations of the human right to informed consent in the context of AZT experimentation, I have developed growing expertise in assisting Sub-Saharan governments in adopting health policy reforms. Beginning with an effort to develop the International Clinical Research Center of Rwanda, these efforts have led me to continue my consultancy work on HIV prevention policy in Zambia and ethical review policy in Kenya. In this latter effort, I received a sub-contract from PATH (based upon a USAID contract) to develop a landscape analysis on the ethical review process for clinical research in Kenya, outlining the policies and stakeholders that govern research ethics and laying a foundation by which key stakeholders could consider revisions to this regulatory framework. Based upon this landscape analysis—presented preliminarily as a poster at AIDS 2010 in Vienna, Austria—I was invited to present my conclusions during a December 2010 Stakeholder Meeting, sharing my research results and working with Kenyan policymakers to consider reforms to national regulations for clinical research review. Building a research agenda from these consultancies, I am working with UNC graduates to develop a comparative study of the policy frameworks necessary to facilitate clinical experimentation in Sub-Saharan Africa, seeking to use this scholarship as a means to highlight the best practices from these national consultancies and frame future national consultancies. With these consultancy contracts channeled through the Department of Public Policy, I have been able to showcase the Department as a productive home for such applied research and to use the consultancy fees to support graduate student research.
Tying this policy research more closely to my human rights focus, I have recently begun an ongoing collaboration with the Health and Human Rights Center at the University of Cape Town to analyze the development of rights-based health policy in South Africa. Sending a UNC undergraduate student to work at the University of Cape Town for the Fall 2010 semester (a collaboration that I expect will continue through UNC’s study abroad program), we conducted a series of interviews with key stakeholders on the development of the Draft Policy Framework for Community Participation in Health in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Given the public health importance of structured and effective policies for community participation, and the normative importance of participation in realizing a rights-based approach to health, this research analyzes the challenges to institutionalizing participation in health systems and provides practitioners with a research base to frame future policy reforms. Having developed a manuscript based on this research (submitted to the Journal of Health Politics, Policy & Law), this collaborative project will soon be presented at both the Commission on Legal Pluralism in Cape Town and the American Public Health Association Meeting in Washington and published as a brochure through the University of Cape Town’s Learning Network on Health and Human Rights.
Based upon these consultancy experiences and research collaborations in Sub-Saharan Africa, I have recently been asked to serve as the Health Editor of the online Southern African Journal of Policy and Development, published through the Southern African Institute for Policy and Research. It is my hope that this editorial position (complemented by my multiple editorial review activities for academic journals and book publishers) will provide me with a greater position to influence the development and application of health policy research for national governments.
III. Ongoing Projects
Back in Chapel Hill, I will be devoting a substantial part of my research efforts in the coming year to an interdisciplinary UNC effort to understand the public health implications of international and comparative water policy. Entitled “Water Wisdom,” this National Institutes of Health Fogarty-funded training grant was received through a collaboration between the new UNC Water Institute, the Office of Global Health, and the Department of Public Policy. I first became interested in the human right to water and sanitation through a 2009 panel that I moderated for the American Public Health Association, presenting thereafter on this human rights framework at the Gillings School of Global Public Health and rapidly developing thereafter to include collaborations with the UNC Water Institute. Since the UN General Assembly’s July 2010 Resolution on the Human Right to Water, the human right to water and sanitation has moved to the forefront of discussions in water policy, practice, and research. Taking advantage of this unique moment of opportunity for the advancement of rights-based water policy, I have been given responsibility for the human rights components of this training grant.
In this ongoing research, we have recruited two postdoctoral researchers to the Department of Public Policy and School of Public Health. Working part-time with these postdoctoral researchers, we have outlined an ambitious series of five papers at the intersection of human rights and water policy – all to be completed by May 2012. I have already developed working drafts for the first two of these manuscripts—on the evolution of the right to water and sanitation and the process of developing human rights indicators on water policy—the latter of which I was asked to present at the Princeton University Conference on Global Legal Regulation and Social Science Measurements. With the postdoctoral researchers having just arrived on August 1, they are working with me to finalize these first two articles and begin three additional articles on global health policy, national water policy, and human rights reporting.
Applying this research to facilitate international consensus for global health policy, I will be returning to Chapel Hill in the fall to lead a workshop at the 2011 Water and Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy. Focused on the development of human rights indicators to monitor government obligations for water and sanitation, this workshop—“The United Nations, Global Health Policy, and Evolving Frameworks for Accountability under the Human Right to Water”—seeks to bring together global policymakers with water statisticians to understand how statistical data can be employed to measure equity in the realization of human rights. With the co-moderation of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, we have successfully invited the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Water and Sanitation and the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, who will speak with epidemiology researchers, public health practitioners, and national policymakers in considering both the development and the implementation of human rights indicators for health promotion.
Assuring that these research publications, professional engagements, and ongoing projects do not take away from my teaching responsibilities, I have worked tirelessly to prepare for the instructional role that I see as the foundation and basis of my position at UNC. Teaching two courses each semester, I remain solely responsible for the Department of Public Policy’s core course in Justice in Public Policy, alternating in the second course between my upper-level seminars in Global Health Policy and Health & Human Rights (both of which serve the Department’s concentration offerings in health policy and global policy). Across the university, I have cut across disciplines in giving guest lectures at the UNC Law School (Public Health Law), the Gillings School of Global Public Health (Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Global Health), the UNC School of Social Work (HIV/AIDS Symposium), the UNC Medical School (Infectious Disease Grand Rounds), and the Department of Public Policy (Introduction to Public Policy Analysis). Outside of the classroom, I have presented my research in lectures hosted by the UNC Bioethics Interest Group, Parr Center for Ethics, UNC GlobeMed, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, Advocates for Human Rights, the Student Global Health Committee, and the Pre-International Law Organization. Beyond the UNC community, I have been invited to give lectures at Columbia University (Mailman School of Public Health), Johns Hopkins University (Bloomberg School of Public Health), American University (School of Public Affairs), the University of Toronto (Munk School of Global Affairs), Duke University (National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference), Cornell Law School (Berger International Law Speaker Series), and the World Health Organization (Distinguished Lecture Series). Through one-on-one instruction, I work closely with students to develop their policy research – providing independent study opportunities, advising senior honors theses, and mentoring undergraduate and doctoral students. Having received recognitions for my teaching and mentoring efforts, I look forward to drawing on these teaching efforts to contribute to my continued development as a teacher and scholar.
A. PLCY 340 – Justice in Public Policy
My course in Justice in Public Policy (Fall and Spring Semesters) has risen in enrolment each semester, increasing from 35 to 75 students in two years, and is now one of the three introductory pillars of the public policy core curriculum. Since taking responsibility for the Ethics and Public Policy course, I have renamed it to reflect a move away from personal ethics—and toward normative policy analysis—and renumbered it from PLCY 240 to reflect an increase in coursework. Ranging from personal ethics to normative policy analysis, the syllabus seeks to give students a firm grasp of theoretical frameworks for justice and application of those frameworks to public policy – using the case study method to highlight the application of each framework. Grading the students on the basis of participation (in the classroom and through a vibrant online discussion board), a final 8-10 page paper, and a midterm and final examination, this course teaches students to evaluate ethical issues regarding the means used to create public policy and analyze justice issues regarding the ends served by public policies. With continuous improvement in course evaluations, I have tried to adjust the course to convey necessary normative frameworks in a way that will resonate with today’s undergraduates. Now with updated case studies to reflect contemporary policy debates—and taught for the first time with the support of a teaching assistant—I look forward to teaching this course each semester (as it has just become a required course for all Public Policy majors) and hope that the enthusiasm of the classroom experience serves the Department well as a means to recruit and retain students.
B. PLCY 565 – Global Health Policy
Given the agreement between the Gillings School of Global Public Health and Department of Public Policy that my teaching would intersect global health and public policy, I designed my first elective course to create UNC’s first interdisciplinary course in Global Health Policy (Spring Semesters). Without established courses in the field, I developed this course to provide an introduction to the relationship between international relations, global health policy, and public health outcomes. As a survey course, the syllabus ranges broadly over theoretical approaches and concrete issues relating to the realization of public health outcomes through a rapidly-changing architecture for policy development and implementation. For advanced undergraduate students seeking to gain an understanding of global health policy, this course focuses on public policy approaches to global health – beginning with theoretical frameworks of global health policy and then exploring contemporary issues related to global health governance, economic institutions and health policy, and international efforts to address determinants of health. Grading students on the basis of participation, an in-class presentation, three 500-word position papers, and a 10-12 page final research paper, this course teaches students how to apply policy analysis to a wide range of critical issues involving global health determinants, interventions, and impacts, complementing other courses at UNC and giving students a foundation for future interdisciplinary studies at the intersection of public health and public policy. With course evaluations highlighting student dissatisfaction with the three-hour seminar format—but nevertheless overwhelmingly supportive of the subject matter and style of instruction—I reformatted the course in its second iteration (moving from one to two sessions per week) and instituted a reading examination to assure that student would be adequately prepared for advanced seminar discussions.
C. PLCY 570 – Health & Human Rights
Given my research interest at the intersection of global health policy and human rights, I developed my second elective course in Health & Human Rights (Fall Semesters). Although the Law School, Medical School, and Public Health School all teach applied human rights courses, no department at UNC currently teaches a survey course analyzing fundamental human rights principles in the context of health policy. Providing an introduction to the relationship between human rights and global health, this course ranges broadly over theoretical approaches and concrete issues relating to the realization of human rights in the context of domestic and international public health policies. Through professorial lecture, seminar discussion, in-class presentations, and interactive exercises, I designed this syllabus to teach advanced undergraduate students (and multidisciplinary graduate students) how to apply international human rights law to a wide range of critical issues in health policy, exploring the role of human rights as both a safeguard against harm and a catalyst for health promotion. With the field of health and human rights still in its infancy, this course (under grading components similar to that of Global Health Policy) has become a model for teaching in the discipline, emulated at other universities as a means to provide students with an understanding of the social, economic, cultural, legal, and political processes by which human rights inform global health objectives. Although it has only been taught once (in a three-hour format that will be changed in future iterations), the course evaluations were emblematic of heightened interest in the subject matter and supportive enthusiasm for my teaching style.
D. Beyond the Classroom
In addition to these classroom activities, I work in a number of different capacities to instruct students on a more individual basis. Developing individualized courses of study, I have supervised four undergraduate independent studies and two graduate independent studies, using these individual experiences to cultivate student interests, hone professional skills, and contribute to meaningful research (reflected in co-authorship with graduate and undergraduate students and acknowledgements of student support in each of my publications). Dedicated in particular to our graduating seniors, I have supervised three senior honors theses – in both the Department of Public Policy and the Curriculum in International Studies. Working most closely in my first year with Lauren Peterson (’10)—who was awarded Public Policy Thesis of the Year, selected as Best Poster at University Research Day, and collaborated with me in discussing the policy application of her research—I have continued to advise her as she has taken a health policy position with the International Labor Organization in Geneva and mentored her as she has contemplated her future in graduate school. While my research and study leave prevents me from supervising a senior thesis in the coming year, I will be serving as the second-reader for three students and look forward to reengaging my role as thesis supervisor in the years to come.
In supervising our graduate students, I have discussed theoretical and methodological issues with a number of doctoral students, presented on my doctoral student experience as part of the Public Policy Friday Seminar Series, and begun to supervise my first students in health policy research. While my first doctoral student, Paul Brodish, is a part-time student (and will likely not complete his coursework until at least 2014), I am currently working with him to develop a manuscript (along with Professor Handa) on the human rights implications of social cash transfers. With Garima Bhalla beginning this fall, I look forward to working with these two doctoral students as they complete their coursework and develop research proposals for their dissertations. Having just reviewed my first doctoral dissertation (as an outside reader for Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia), I look forward to the challenge of supervising students through the entire dissertation development process.
Whether undergraduate or graduate student, no matter what role I serve in a student’s academic training, my office hours are the time when I take questions from all who come, and I actively encourage students to take advantage of this time for unstructured mentorship. During my office hours, I endeavor to question all of my students about their plans for the future (having recently been in their position). With each of my courses requiring students to prepare a question or presentation for class discussion, this requirement gives me the opportunity to meet at least once with each of my students, providing students with the chance to receive individualized feedback on their studies, hopes, and dreams. Mentoring many of these students in preparing for the future, I have completed letters of recommendation for 58 undergraduate and 3 graduate students and maintain contact with almost all of these students as they have pursued careers in public policy and furthered their education in public policy, law, medicine, public health, bioethics, government, business, nursing, and physical therapy.
On the basis of this dedicated teaching and mentorship, I was nominated by my students and selected by a faculty committee to receive the 2011 William C. Friday Award for Excellence in Teaching. I believe that this university-wide Award—awarded for the first time to a second-year professor and complemented by a student-selected award for Best Teacher in the Department of Public Policy—serves as a powerful testament to the time that I have devoted to my coursework preparations and the commitment that I have made to student mentoring. With the Friday Award Committee providing me with a $5,000 prize, which the UNC Center for Bioethics has kindly agreed to match, we have used the funding to launch and endow the UNC Health & Human Rights Speaker Series, and a multidisciplinary faculty committee has been assembled to select the inaugural speaker for Spring 2012.
Overcoming the inherent challenges of becoming an interdisciplinary scholar within a single academic discipline, UNC’s campus-wide commitment to global health policy has provided the intellectual resources, cross-campus partnerships, and administrative flexibility necessary to find success within the Department of Public Policy and across the University of North Carolina. As I continue my teaching under a new department chair, engage with the Center for Public Policy as the new home for my research, and begin my first interdepartmental grant in the new area of global water policy and human rights, I expect that the productivity of the past will continue into the future. Following a series of productive year-end evaluations in my first and second years in the Department, I look forward to continuing the growth of my interdisciplinary career at UNC.