March 18, 2022
When Hilary Chung was growing up in Cornwall, Ontario, her family’s dinner-table conversation often turned to matters of medicine—not a surprise when you have a doctor for a dad, as she did. But it wasn’t just the nitty-gritty of medical practice she learned about. Her father was a passionate advocate for local public-health issues, and his example inspired the young Chung’s interest in the legal, social and political aspects of healthcare.
“I remember watching him speak about a smoking ban at a city council meeting,” says Chung, “and thinking about how health went beyond clinical medicine. I started to understand how laws and regulations can help shape behaviours and lead to positive health outcomes.”
As a teenager, Chung volunteered at hospitals in Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario, becoming more and more interested in equity and justice issues: regional disparities in health care, for example, or access to treatments and services that fall outside Canada’s publicly funded health systems.
She eventually attended law school at the University of Western Ontario, and began working in personal-injury law. “I saw firsthand there how health policies and laws affected patients navigating the system,” she says.
But it soon became clear that she needed more in-depth knowledge of the healthcare landscape if she wanted to explore a career in health law. The problem? She didn’t want to take two years away from her clients to go back to school. That meant finding a part-time, remote-learning program that would allow her to continue working in her growing Ottawa-based practice, which also offered a seriously deep dive into healthcare and the law.
Osgoode’s LLM in Health Law turned out to be exactly the right fit. It allowed her to balance her studies with a burgeoning career, accessing online classes in real time alongside in-class peers. She could organize her studies around her work. And if the demands of a growing practice meant she needed to miss the occasional class, everything was accessible online afterwards. Through it all, she didn’t feel she was missing any of the in-class experience—despite being hundreds of kilometres from her physical classroom.
“I thought the online experience was fantastic,” she says. “It was really easy to ask questions, participate in discussions, and it almost made it feel like we were actually there.”
Especially meaningful to Chung was the way the program provided a virtual equivalent for the in-person exchange of ideas found in a real-world classroom. Students collaborated and conversed in online breakout rooms and chats, and that interaction with her peers was as much a part of Chung’s learning experience as classwork.
“The other students came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences,” she says, “and that led to very in-depth discussions. For example, when we were learning about the mental-health system in Canada, we heard from our instructors, but also classmates who were practicing lawyers in the field, psychiatrists, family physicians, and other healthcare practitioners who had their own experiences to share.”
Those conversations and connections have now led to personal and professional contacts that have outlived the program itself. Most importantly, the program helped her learn new ways of looking at health issues. And that, she says, “will be invaluable for my career as a lawyer, and also as a member of the community who wants to help effect positive change.”
Since graduating in 2021, Chung has joined Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s Ottawa office, where she works on cases that get right to the heart of her interest in equity, justice and health.
Want to learn more about the Professional LLM in Health Law? Sign up for an Information Session!