PFC Spotlight: Student Fellow Alumna Emily Largent
Emily Largent, JD, PhD, RN, was Peter Barton Hutt Student Fellow during the 2014-2015 academic year, while a second-year law student at Harvard Law School. Then-Academic Fellow Matthew Lawrence and Faculty Director I. Glenn Cohen served as her mentors. Today, Emily is assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She also teaches at Penn Law, and is a senior fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at Penn.
When did you first become interested in health law policy, biotechnology, and bioethics?
As an undergraduate at Georgetown University, I majored in Science, Technology, and International Affairs with a focus in biotechnology and global health. My honors thesis compared and contrasted the federal government’s response to three new and emerging diseases: HIV/AIDS, toxic shock syndrome, and Legionnaire’s Disease. Although my thesis drew on law, policy, and bioethics, I didn’t realize when I was writing it that this was the direction my career would ultimately take. At the time, I had plans to attend Penn Nursing after graduation and get a second degree in nursing. After graduating from Penn, I worked as a bedside nurse in a cardiothoracic intensive care unit. While I found patient care to be incredibly rewarding, I regularly encountered challenges – related to end-of-life care, resource allocation, access to care, etc. – that I felt needed to be addressed at a systems level. I found myself thinking more and more about how I could address them using health law, policy, and bioethics.
What attracted you to the Student Fellowship program at the Petrie-Flom Center?
Prior to graduate school (but after my work as a nurse), I was a fellow in the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health. The NIH Department of Bioethics is an incredibly special place where I benefited from focused mentorship, dedicated time to conduct research and write, and interdisciplinary feedback on my work. I really missed that combination in the thick of my 1L year at Harvard Law School. The Petrie-Flom Center – and the Student Fellowship program in particular – offered the prospect of enjoying that intense mentorship again and a chance to do rigorous work bringing together health law, policy, and bioethics. It was wonderful!
What was the focus of your Student Fellowship project, and how did your advisor and mentor assist you in completing it?
I wrote my Student Fellowship paper on the National Organ Transplant Act and human tissues. Glenn has a lot of expertise in tissues and organs and offered invaluable feedback as I formulated my research question and wrote the paper. Then-Academic Fellow Rachel Sachs and then-Executive Director Holly Fernandez Lynch were also key figures in my fellowship experience. It was great to have them and so many other Petrie-Flom affiliates read and provide feedback on drafts.
What were your key takeaways from the SF? Have you continued to interact with the Center and/or its affiliates since completing your fellowship?
I feel incredibly fortunate that my one-year fellowship has turned into a years’ long relationship with the Petrie-Flom Center! As my current work is at the intersection of health law, policy, and bioethics, the center continues to be a tremendous resource for me – to share my own work, to learn about the work of others, and to collaborate. In fact, I have a number of ongoing collaborations that are the outgrowth of work and relationships that began during my Student Fellowship. I have also had the good fortune of meeting other people with ties to Petrie-Flom as I progress in my career, and that shared background is great for forging new connections.
How has the Student Fellowship influenced your career?
In addition to being my Student Fellowship mentor, Glenn was on my PhD dissertation committee, and he has continued to be an extraordinary mentor and great resource to me. The publications and the relationships that came out of the Student Fellowship have been crucial to helping me get where I am now.bioethics fellowship health law policy holly fernandez lynch i. glenn cohen matthew j. b. lawrence rachel sachs spotlight