Leaning into the law

Marika Wrzosek, MD, is learning the legal system as it relates to health care through the Weekend JD

As a physician-educator at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) in Milwaukee, Marika I. Wrzosek, MD, found herself growing restless with what she calls “well-intentioned systemic laws and regulations that inadvertently impede my ability to provide the most efficient and accessible care for my patients.”

She wanted “a deeper understanding of the legal system that regulates and enforces many healthcare nuances,” so she enrolled in the School of Law’s Weekend JD program.

Dr. Wrzosek, a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at MCW, interacts with law enforcement and the legal system in situations ranging from involuntary hospitalizations to advocating for children receiving educational accommodations to helping professionals navigate undue scrutiny from licensing bodies when they seek mental health treatment. The limits of the law in these settings are sometimes challenging, she says.

“There’s no health without mental health,” she says, “but it remains one of the most misunderstood, and often feared, aspects of the human condition. We have good evidence that when people’s mental health is optimized, their other medical conditions have better outcomes, but the complex healthcare system—intertwined with statutory parameters and often unfunded legal mandates—has not quite caught up.”

“There’s no health without mental health, but it remains one of the most misunderstood, and often feared, aspects of the human condition”

Wrzosek chose Loyola’s Weekend JD program for its flexibility and Loyola’s excellent reputation in health law. With her packed schedule, adding legal studies “has required some shuffling”—she’s had to limit the number of scholarly conferences she attends, for instance—but knowing the schedule and assignments in advance allows her to plan ahead.

Wrzosek is a Health Law Fellow at Loyola’s Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy and is enrolled in the Health Justice Policy Practicum. “There are so many ways to get involved in meaningful change once you have a network,” she says. “The fellowship jump-starts that network.”

In her medical school faculty role, Wrzosek develops and implements nationally recognized curricula and courses and is a sought-after speaker on topics including e-professionalism: using social media responsibly while leveraging its opportunities for better practice and teaching. She likes to use nontraditional tools like film in the classroom. “Movies are just removed enough from personal experiences that learners can engage with them, but not so removed that topics are abstract,” she says. This semester, for example, she’s giving her students the option to discuss one of several computer-generated animated feature films to explore human development themes.

In the Weekend JD program, she’s not just learning the law; she’s also finding ways to continue innovating as a teacher. “Getting to experience asynchronous learning that still permits meaningful engagement has been powerful,” she says. “It’s become a model for how I can adapt my own teaching.”

Although she’s not sure yet what direction her career will take after she becomes an attorney, “I’m increasingly certain I want to straddle both the legal and medical worlds,” Wrzosek says. “Keeping a foot in each world will let me retain the relevance I need to make change.” –Gail Mansfield (March 2023)


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Loyola’s Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy

Nationally recognized as a leading center devoted to the study of health care law, the Beazley Institute educates health law leaders and policymakers through a curriculum grounded in transactional, regulatory, life science, and public health and policy issues.

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Health Justice Project

Students enrolled in the Health Justice Project Clinic may be involved in a variety of ways including outreach and education for medical partners and their patients, developing resources for patients and providers, policy advocacy, and direct legal services to patients.

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