Q&A with Kashish Aneja
O’Neill Institute | Leave a Comment
Kashish Aneja is a practicing lawyer in New Delhi, and an international legal consultant specializing in Global Health Law. Currently, he’s consulting for the O’Neill Institute, and over the past 2 years, he worked in different capacities for the World Health Organization (WHO), Centre for Reproductive Rights and GAVI the Vaccine Alliance.
1. What drew you to study and practice global health law?
A: Coming from a family of doctors, I was drawn to the black robe in the midst of stethoscopes. The everyday dining table conversations on public health in India compelled me to think deeply about how law interacts with health. I studied every possible health law (medical law/healthcare law) course in India I could get my hands-on during law school and participated in as many conferences on these intersections as possible. I also volunteered at my law school’s legal aid center, where I participated in their community outreach program that focused on the right to health. Internships with various lawyers and organizations made me realize that while law has the potential to be a powerful tool to further the right to health, it is not yet being used as an effective one.
While I was applying to LL.M. programs, I was working as a judicial law clerk at the Supreme Court of India. In this role, I assisted the Court on a constitutional challenge concerning the legalization of euthanasia. This case re-enforced my passion for health law and ever since there has been no turning back—I was prepared to expand my horizon with global health law.
2. Why did you choose your LL.M. program?
A: As I was evaluating my options, I noticed that Georgetown Law offered over 40 health law courses taught by experts in their respective fields. You name an area of interest and Georgetown Law has specialized course for it. No other university in the world offered such an in-depth and multidisciplinary approach towards health law. During my LL.M., I took classes on privacy law, public-private partnerships, intellectual property rights, and global governance.
I wanted to gain as much diverse and practical exposure as I could, which led me to choose the LL.M. in Global Health Law and Governance, which allowed me to spend one semester at Georgetown Law in Washington, DC, and my second semester at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, in Geneva, Switzerland. I was also named a Global Health Law Scholar.
3. Tell us about one or two of your favorite courses.
A: One of my favorite courses at Georgetown Law, was “Public-Private Partnership: Law and Governance,” taught by Professor Kevin Klock, the Vice President of Operations and General Counsel at the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. The course provided practical tools and knowledge to students to work with public-private partnerships, and debate how they should be managed and governed. Toward the end of this course, we put these tools into practice by participating in a lab exercise to form a global health public-private partnership. Professor Klock’s expertise made this course unique—he was the former governance counsel of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, one of the largest global health public-private partnership in the world.
At the Graduate Institute, I was privileged to learn from Professor Gian-Luca Burci, the former legal counsel at the WHO. Professor Burci invited guest lectures by experts from the WHO and the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. His course brought into perspective the present-day context of global health law and illustrated how governments and international organizations interact with global health law and policy.
Lastly, the “Global Health, Globalization and Global Governance: Problems, Politics, and Policies” course taught by Professor Suerie Moon holds a special place in my heart. This was an interdisciplinary course, and I was a little apprehensive at first since it was a non-legal course. But the class taught me about the politics of global health and the tools of global governance, all with the aid of unique case studies. This course helped me connect several dots and my LL.M. academic journey would have been incomplete without it.
4. Tell us about one or two of your favorite professors.
A: This is a tough one. It’s practically impossible for me to only pick one or two of my favorite professors. But the professor I was closest to during my LL.M. year was Professor Sarah Roache, the director of the Health Law Programs at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, who wore many different hats during my entire LL.M. journey. From choosing Georgetown, to my admissions, to discussions on course choices, teaching the “Global Health Law” course, Professor Roache gave extensive guidance on potential career paths and connected me with colleagues around the world. Professor Roache played a crucial role and ensured I had a memorable experience.
5. How did your classmates impact your LL.M. experience?
A: Working in teams and having extensive discussions during classes and group exercises with classmates from all over the world with varied experiences had a profound impact on my LL.M. experience. Each course was a unique opportunity to interact with new people and learn diverse perspectives on both law and life. Apart from my LL.M. colleagues, Georgetown also offered interactions with J.D. students and since the Graduate Institute hosted multidisciplinary programs it gave an opportunity to go beyond law, which was refreshing!
6. Did you participate in any practical learning opportunities (practicum courses, externships, research assistantships) and, if so, how did these experiences influence your career path?
A: I wanted to get as much international exposure during my LL.M. as possible and I worked with external organizations throughout the year.
First, I worked as a research assistant with the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law during both the fall and spring. I worked on diverse issues including universal health coverage and health systems strengthening, global health and human rights jurisprudence, global faith-based health systems and noncommunicable diseases and tobacco. It was fulfilling to get involved in the working of a leading global health law and policy institution.
Second, at the Graduate Institute as part of the course “Legal Issues in International Organizations Clinic” taught by Professor Gian Luca Burci and Professor Nico Krisch, I worked for GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, extensively researching their legal status as a hybrid organization and setting out recommendations on their legal structure. The wide-ranging discussions with the legal director of GAVI, Eelco Szabo, led me to dive into the legal and political intricacies of one of the largest global health public-private partnership in the world. The lessons I learned in Professor Kevin Klock’s class, “Public-Private Partnerships: Law and Governance” were the ideal tools to work with on this project.
Last but definitely not the least, I secured an internship at the World Health Organization Headquarters in the Healthier Populations – Noncommunicable Diseases department, under the supervision of Dr. Benn McGrady. During the internship, I worked extensively on tobacco control laws, and examined how heated tobacco products and electronic cigarettes interacted with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. I also served as the vice-president of the WHO Intern Board. This internship gave me a mentor in Dr. McGrady, who also happens to be one of my favorite professors, as well as friends and colleagues at WHO with diverse specializations like health economics, human rights, and genetics, among others. I am grateful for the opportunity to network with leading global experts.
The combination of academic and practical experiences, along with the colleagues and friends I made during my LL.M. journey, helped me grow both personally and professionally. All this culminated into my first consultancy project for WHO, where I drafted a comprehensive alcohol control legislation for a country in Asia.
7. Tell us about your work with the COVID-19 Law Lab. How did the LL.M. program prepare you for your role?
A: As part of the COVID-19 Law Lab team, I gathered legal documents from over 190 countries and categorized them with specific attention to state of emergencies, movement restrictions, isolation and quarantine measures, disease surveillance and technology, access to medicines and intellectual property and HIV and COVID-19.
This project was time sensitive and covered an ongoing global health crisis, so it demanded the ability to quickly identify legal and policy issues surrounding global health law and human rights—which is precisely what the LL.M. program prepared me for. The LL.M. lectures on how law interacts with communicable diseases, the working of the International Health Regulations, privacy law and data protection violations, international human rights standards and global health governance, all prepared me well to do this exciting and timely work.
8. What are your longer term professional aspirations?
A: I want to focus on using law as a tool to empower evidence-driven public health practices. I’m working toward this goal by engaging with international and domestic organizations, partners and governments for policy-making and through strategic litigation in the courts of India. Although challenging, I see significant importance of undertaking litigation and policy work together. Litigating in India will keep me abreast with the on-ground problems and help identify policy incoherencies that end up counteracting the very purpose for which a law was passed. Understanding policymaking ensures that I have a more nuanced and wider perspective to better understand both the roots and implications of the way a law is being interpreted. Often a policy alone cannot achieve its purpose, and strategic litigation plays a crucial role in accomplishing the goal. An effective policymaker is one who can foresee whether the law or policy will withstand a constitutional challenge and judicial review. There is little purpose in enacting a law or drafting a policy that will be short-lived, and lacks teeth when it comes to enforcement.
9. What advice would you offer to prospective students?
A: An LL.M. has much more to offer than just academics—it’s a world of its own. You’ll make amazing friends, mentors and memories that will last you a lifetime.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to mention about your LLM experience?
A: A few fond memories go beyond the academic world: the priceless interactions with Professor Lawrence Gostin; hiking the Billy Goat trail outside of D.C.; the frequent happy hours with the O’Neill Institute colleagues; “Lawyers in Balance: Mindfulness Practices for Law Students” sessions at Georgetown; attending Supreme Court Moot Courts organized by the Supreme Court Institute; and participating in events at the WHO, the World Bank and the United Nations.