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My Summer with the O'Neill Institute

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washington-dc-city-guide-ga-3This post was written by Marguerite de Causans (Paris Bar School), summer research assistant at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. Any comments or questions about this post can be directed to

To sum-up my summer internship experience at the O’Neill Institute in just a few paragraphs is anything but an easy task. In the course of the past twelve weeks, I got the opportunity to work on a variety of fascinating projects and also met plenty of amazing people!

Interning at the O’Neill Institute is the best way to tackle both global health law and human rights. I worked with Ana Ayala, an Institute Associate, whose passion for health-related issues quickly inspired my own.

My first project consisted of reformatting and summarizing important French and Belgian health law cases for the Global Health and Human Rights Database, a multiyear initiative spearheaded by the O’Neill Institute in 2009. Besides highlighting the importance of precedent in common law systems, this project reminded me of the major domestic decisions in France in the past forty years.

My second project was to build an annotated bibliography on “Tuberculosis, Human Rights and Bioethics” for the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO). I had already learned, from friends studying medicine back in France, that tuberculosis was reemerging as a serious global threat. So in addition to working on a very timely issue I also learned how to build a comprehensive bibliography, which constitutes a core component of any researcher’s work.

My third project was the creation of the “Practitioner Guides” for the Open Society Foundations. Every week, the other RAs and I would meet with Ana to determine where we were in terms of drafting the various sections of the guide, from an international or regional point of view, and from the patients’ or the practitioners’ perspective, etc. This guide is a really ambitious project: in only one book, it aims to articulate all of the human rights that should be guaranteed to patients or practitioners! Given how much time and effort we committed to making it as comprehensive as possible, I am sure that this guide would be a very useful asset to the practitioners.

Interning at the O’Neill Institute was not just about work. Intellectual stimulation and team discussions were integral parts of it too. I have experienced this through the “Summer Conversation series.” Each week, a guest would tell us about a domestic or international issue in health law for about an hour. Thanks to these conversations, I learned about the LLM in Global Health and MPH programs. I was able to draw parallels between the history of health law in the European Union and in the U.S., and I have also broadened my career perspectives by deepening my knowledge about international institutions such as the World Health Organization and the World Bank.

The experience would not have been complete if not for the great campus.

Georgetown University Law Center provided me with well-stocked libraries and amazing sport facilities! Of course, we must not forget Washington, DC itself. Political effervescence is palpable everywhere in DC, and the public institutions and museums are all there as a testament to its historical importance and present significance.

Three months is not enough time to get around all the treasures the O’Neill Institute, Georgetown and DC have to offer. I hope that my work here has made at least some small impact on the progress of human rights in global health – if not, I might come back soon in order to fight harder and think deeper, to complete a law degree, or work at an international institution here in DC!

I want to take this opportunity to thank the O’Neill Institute and the Health Law Institute of Paris Descartes for giving me this great opportunity to work as a Research Assistant during this Summer 2013.

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