Glimpse at courts helps USF Health students, faculty see legal system at work

Substance abuse trials, a case of a medical clinic investment deal going wrong, juvenile court, testimony from the medical examiner for the murder trial of Dante Morris. These were some of the court cases several USF Health faculty and students listened to when they spent part of a day at the George Edgecomb Courthouse in downtown Tampa Nov. 13.

Called the Black Robe Day, the morning-long event partners lawyers and judges with doctors, medical students, medicine, nursing and pharmacy faculty to help link medicine and the law. The event is organized by Jay Wolfson, JD, USF Distinguished Service Professor and associate vice president for Health Law, Policy and Safety at USF Health, and Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Gregory Holder, and coordinated by Megan Monroe, JD, assistant professor in the USF Department of Internal Medicine, and Laura M. Daniels, judicial assistant to Judge Holder. The program is also linked to the Law and Medicine Scholarly Concentration, one of several programs offered by the Scholarly Concentration Program in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

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“For doctors just coming into their professions, you will be exposed to court cases,” said Tony Martino, a Tampa-based attorney and an associate for the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), a group of litigators that promotes issues that support the courts and provide a better understanding of the court system. ABOTA hosted the lunch for event attendees.

The group of mostly medical students, but also faculty from the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy, met with judges for part of the morning, and then split into smaller groups to shadow individual judges and access many of the court cases taking place that day.

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“On behalf of all of the 62 judges of the Hillsborough County 13th Circuit Court, I thank you for coming,” Judge Greg Holder told the group at lunch. “Whatever we can do to help you, we are here to help.”

Reflections from the students and faculty about their day in court included gratitude for the inside look at the court system and a newfound appreciation for the legal process. Some of the quotes from the morning included:

“I’m so impressed that there’s a second chance for the youth offenders and that the system works very hard to turn the kids around.” Sierra Gower, ARNP, PhD, College of Nursing faculty.

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“My takeaway is to stay positive despite all these difficult cases.” Nishit Patel, MD, USF medical resident.

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“Thanks for taking justice so seriously. It’s one thing to hear about it but something else altogether different to see it.” Neil Manimala, second-year medical student.

“I was impressed by the work put into the cases and all of the detail you go into to prove your case.” Eric Quintero, fourth-year medical student.

“I wonder how I would be able to put the stressful issues aside when I’m with my patients,” Pedro Sanchez-Herrera, second-year medical student.

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