January 28, 2021
Name: Gianella Severini
Graduating Class: 2020
Currently living in: Cordoba, Argentina
Tell us about your education prior to the LL.M. program.
I spent six years studying at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba to obtain my general law degree. While I was still an undergraduate I did a three-month internship with O’Neill. That was when I realized there was a connection between health and law. I then finished my law degree and went to O’Neill for the LL.M. four years later.
I had started working for an NGO in Córdoba on human rights, the right to health, and environmental issues while I was still working on my undergraduate law degree. After I graduated, I spent two years at another NGO in Buenos Aires on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), food policy, tobacco, alcohol, and promoting physical activity. Then I started working for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for a couple of years, and then I went to O’Neill to do the LL.M.
How did you hear about O’Neill? What attracted you to the LL.M program?
I had the internship experience, and I got to know the classes that were available and some of the LL.M. students. I knew I wanted to have a Master’s degree, I knew I wanted to study in the U.S., and O’Neill was the only program that included what I was looking for: health and law. It just had everything I wanted. Also, everyone I knew working in this field had their LL.M. from O’Neill!
Where has your career taken you so far?
My current job title is Legal Advisor for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in the tobacco control program’s legal unit. I really love my job. In my work, I provide strategic guidance on policy development, drafting laws and regulation, advising litigation strategies, and supporting legal capacity-building efforts in different countries with regards to tobacco control. For example, I’m focused on capacity-building, like producing workshops for Ministry of Health agents and NGOs members to give them more tools on tobacco control litigation, and another focus of mine is legislation, like supporting draft bills related to tobacco control.
What was your favorite class and why?
One was all about how health companies collect, store, and use our information. It was not related to my main area of work — I was focused on NCDs — but I wanted to do something different. I found it interesting because I learned a lot about privacy issues related to health. Another was focused on trade, which taught about how health measures don’t necessarily restrict trade or violate intellectual property. Studying those laws gave me the tools I need to respond to tobacco industry lawyers that claim that health measures impact trade and intellectual property laws. Another, was about the WHO and its main regulations. I learnt a LOT and loved this class, and had the honor of learning from the former WHO legal council, Gian Luca Burci.
Every class at O’Neill draws students from all parts of the globe. What was that like for you?
One thing that was really shocking for me is that for every country in the world, no matter the specific contexts, we could speak in the same language when we were speaking about health. We could share knowledge because everyone had the same problems and we could find a solution together. Also I really enjoyed listening to the different experiences from my classmates, like those that had been working in law firms, some that were working in ministries of health, NGOs, and a huge range of experiences.
What is your dream job?
I would love to be the Rapporteur to the Right to Health. Oscar says I can do it! Also, sometimes I’ve thought about being Minister of Health!
Who are your heroes in this field?
Patricia Lambert and Verónica Schoj.