US professor Jaime King eyes NZ healthcare law now she's here
30 April 2021
It’s been a slow journey but Professor Jaime King, a specialist in US healthcare law, is now at the University of Auckland.
It felt otherworldly to be here in comparison to the US. To have the children go to school, that was an incredible thing as well.
When Professor Jaime King started teaching law at her previous workplace, UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, her name was emblazoned in lights.
On a massive billboard, just outside the building where she was teaching, was Jaime King wearing knee-high boots and a mask, and cracking a whip.
“It was pretty funny, a billboard with Jaime King demanding ‘Get on your knees!’ for the first month I was teaching.”
It was the other Jaime King, the actress, promoting the movie Sin City.
“The way I spell my name is uncommon. It was 2004 and I was young and nervous. All I could see was this billboard running down the side of the building as I was about to teach.”
Her arrival to work in New Zealand as the inaugural John and Marylyn Mayo Chair in Health Law at the University of Auckland was more comforting than confronting. There were cupcakes.
In January, Jaime, husband James (yes, to add to the name confusion) and their sons Otis and Asa arrived in New Zealand for their quarantine stint. They had been due to arrive in June 2020, but the pandemic put paid to that. It was Asa’s seventh birthday the day after they arrived. At the Holiday Inn MIQ, staff noticed his date of birth and sent him a signed card ... and a giant cupcake.
“We had packed streamers so we could have a little MIQ party for him,” says Jaime. “But this was so thoughtful. It made him feel really special and welcome in his new country.
“The two weeks went pretty smoothly. The boys were in one room enjoying Netflix and we got on with our work days, but could also go for MIQ walks as we weren’t in the city.”
It was more than they’d been able to do for a period back home in California.
“The wildfires in California were especially bad in 2020,” says Jaime. “We couldn’t walk outside at all for about three weeks and we couldn’t go to inside places because of Covid. My older son has asthma so that was just like a non-starter.”
When the family got out of quarantine, they headed straight to a restaurant for breakfast.
“None of us had been in a restaurant in almost a year, so the kids were pretty excited, as were we.
“They kept asking ‘are you sure it’s ok, can I really take my mask off?’ So in photos from that time all four of us are grinning. We went to the beach, the weather was beautiful, and we could walk around in stores.
“It felt otherworldly to be here in comparison to the US and then to have the children go to school, that was an incredible thing as well. They hadn’t really been around kids their age for ages.”
They did experience another Auckland lockdown in March, but didn’t find it too bad because they could still get outside.
“It was really good for the children to recognise how fragile that freedom is and how we all have to do our part to make sure everybody here stays safe.”
I’ve been in discussion with scholars who are looking at the vaccine response here and thinking about some of the ethical, legal and social issues that arise out of vaccine allocation, for example, and incentivising certain people to get the vaccine.
Jaime technically started her role with the University of Auckland on 1 July 2020 but had to work remotely.
“I joined Law faculty meetings on Zoom and the University was wonderful in allowing me to continue my research because I had a lot of ongoing research projects.”
Jaime’s research has focused on some of the most complex challenges facing healthcare systems, particularly in the US. She has investigated the drivers of healthcare costs, and the impact of market consolidation and healthcare prices and competition.
She is teaching second-year torts and in the first week of the course was assigned to teach about ACC.
“I had to read up about it and I just kept saying to my husband, ‘you’re not going to believe this; if you’re injured, they just take care of you!’ In the States, it’s not designed to help the person who’s injured, regardless of fault, or to immediately get them rehabilitated.”
While still in the US, Jaime collaborated with Professor Jo Manning, also an expert in health law.
“My old university, UC Hastings, wanted me to give a lecture about Covid-19, and I said, 'Wouldn’t it be interesting to bring in Jo? She can talk about what’s happening with the New Zealand response to Covid-19 because it’s been such a contrast to the United States'. So we did the lecture together.”
Jaime says that kind of collaboration could lead to others. She also joined up with professors at Auckland, UC Hastings, University of New Mexico and the University of Tasmania, to create the first International Law and Medicine Day. This brought law and health science students and faculties together in April for an online discussion of controversial issues arising at the intersection of law, medicine, ethics including privacy rights, Covid-19, mental illness and substance abuse.
“Having them all combine their expertise was a great opportunity,” says Jaime.
While Jaime’s past research has been around the US healthcare system, she is eyeing research in New Zealand healthcare even after a few months here.
“I’ve been in discussion with different scholars who are looking at the vaccine response here and thinking about some of the ethical, legal and social issues that arise out of vaccine allocation, for example, and incentivising certain people to get the vaccine.
“The longer I’m here, the more I’m excited and invested in local research projects.”
James has been able to keep his job with a US financial services company called Square, which was set up by Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter.
“It’s not in New Zealand yet but I think they are planning to come here.
“The fact he can work here shows how efficient it can be to work from home, anywhere. I think the pandemic has changed the way we work, where we work and the way we teach,” says Jaime.
“Covid brought a lot of tragedy and hardship around the world, but it has also taught us some interesting lessons around remote working and the value of online education. There had been so many discussions about ‘can it really work?’ and ‘can people really connect?’, and the answer is yes.”
– Denise Montgomery
Professor Jaime King is the inaugural John and Marylyn Mayo Chair in Health Law. The establishment of an endowed Chair in Health Law is due to the generosity of Dr John Mayo, one of the University of Auckland’s long-standing donors, who funded the position in memory of his wife Marylyn, a pioneer professor in health law.
This article first appeared in the May 2021 edition of UniNews.