Black Robe Day proves how law and health intersect

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The USF Health Community visited the 13th Judicial Circuit Courthouse in downtown Tampa on Oct. 17 to get a firsthand look at the relationship between the health and legal professions.

USF Health faculty, students and staff pose for a group photo with the judges and lawyers who participated in Black Robe Day 2018 at the downtown Tampa-based 13th Judicial Court.

Known as Black Robe Day, the event was attended by 45 USF Health students, faculty and staff who spent the morning shadowing lawyers and judges, including sitting in on cases and hearings involving parole, juvenile delinquency, domestic violence, burglary, drug dealing and homicide. At lunchtime, the USF Health participants gathered in a courthouse conference room to reflect upon what they had observed and to ask the judges questions.

Jay Wolfson, DrPh, JD, is one of the USF Health organizers of Black Robe Day, now in its 14th year.

The main purpose of the annual Black Robe Day is to expose the USF Health community to the legal system so that students and faculty gain a better perspective and appreciation for the commonalities of law and medicine, said Jay Wolfson, DrPH, JD, associate vice president for health law, policy, safety and distinguished service professor of public health, medicine and pharmacy.

“We’re big on civics education, making sure people understand how our government and system of justice works – and what you did here today is a big part of that,” said attorney Kevin McLaughlin, president of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), a national organization that aims to protect and preserve the jury trial system.

Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Daryl Manning.

The experience brings to the forefront how much public health issues, including mental illness, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress to name a few, and social determinants of health, such as poverty, social support networks, and education and literacy, impact the people served by the legal system – as they do individuals, families and communities served by health professionals.

“Since the last time I was here for Black Robe Day I’ve actually decided to go into psychiatry,” said Luis Espinosa, a fourth-year student at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “I came to the realization that you (as lawyers and judges) are going to see a lot of my patients before I do… I hope to provide the same thoughtfulness and level of care you’ve exemplified here.”

From left: Dr. Wolfson; Ronald Ficarrotta, chief judge for the 13th Judicial Circuit; Katherine Drabiak, JD, assistant professor of the USF College of Public Health; and Circuit Judge Daryl Manning.

This year’s Black Robe Day was organized by Wolfson; Katherine Drabiak, JD, assistant professor at the USF College of Public Health; and Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Daryl Manning, and coordinated by Denise Brown, judicial assistant to Judge Manning; and Diane Havel assistant to Wolfson.

The program is also one of the field experiences for the Law and Medicine Scholarly Concentration, one of several concentrations offered by the MCOM Scholarly Concentration Program.

Reposted from USF Health News

Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications and Marketing

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