Graduate juggles law and healthcare hats
4 October 2019
When Shail Singh walked across the stage to be capped with a Bachelor of Law degree at the University of Auckland Spring Graduation ceremony, she was putting on her new legal hat.
The Auckland Law School student already has another profession in healthcare as a physiotherapist, a role she is passionate about, and has continued working part-time in while completing her LLB.
Shail, who previously worked in oncology, haematology and in palliative care, says that working with this patient population provided one of the driving factors for her to return to study.
When you work with people who have fragile illnesses, where end of life
is imminent, you discover there isn’t really a ‘right time’ to do anything. You
learn not to take things for granted, and to seize opportunities as they arise.
“When you work with people who have fragile illnesses, where end of life is imminent, you discover there isn’t really a ‘right time’ to do anything. You learn not to take things for granted, and to seize opportunities as they arise,” she says.
“I think people regret the opportunities they didn’t take or the conversations they never had.” Having this perspective helped Shail to take a step back and look at the big picture throughout her law degree.
Juggling all her commitments has been testing at times. In her first year of law school, Shail decided to embark on parenthood and now has a four-year-old son. Married to a doctor who was simultaneously studying for his own surgical exams meant the couple had to divide their study time carefully between them.
In addition, Shail was appointed to the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal in 2015. The Tribunal hears and determines disciplinary proceedings brought against health practitioners. She took on the role because she firmly believes that the integrity of the health profession is dependent on robust accountability mechanisms.
“Protecting the public and upholding the integrity of physiotherapy, or any, health profession is fundamental,” she says. “How my profession is perceived is important and I think we need to be cognisant that there is often a vulnerable person at the receiving end of it.”
Shail, who has now started her LLM, acknowledges that there are tensions between her roles in law and healthcare. She is currently critiquing the accountability mechanisms under New Zealand law, where health professionals’ lack of care has resulted in serious harm or death to a patient, for a patient’s rights paper.
The remainder of her LLM will be a thesis, supervised by Professor Ron Paterson, who was formerly the Director-General of Health, and the Health and Disability Commissioner. Shail, who will finish postgraduate study at the end of next year, wants to utilise her health and law knowledge by working in the medico-legal field, healthcare policy or governance.
“I’m excited to see where the law degree takes me, and to further learn the analytical style of a lawyer. The skills are different but complimentary to health,” she says.
Miranda Playfair | Media Adviser
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