Student Spotlight

Alison Cohen

Legislative Assistant, US House of Representatives

Residence: Washington DC, USA Nationality: USA

Class of 2024

For budding policy wonk Alison Cohen, the Master’s in Health Law and Strategy program hits the sweet spot. Currently a legislative assistant in Congress to the Democratic representative from New York, Jerry Nadler, Cohen didn’t set out to work in politics. She began her career as a middle-school math teacher in New Orleans, an experience that caused her to broaden her career horizons.  “The vast systemic inequities in the school system motivated me to go into public service,” she said. 

That change in direction led to a position with a Louisiana state legislator who, among other issues, focused on policy around reproductive health care. “I became invested in health care policy as well as education policy,” Cohen recalled. That passion took her to Capitol Hill to work on federal policy, initially as a legislative assistant to Virginia Congresswoman Elaine Luria, where her brief also included health care.

Now, as the health legislative assistant for Rep. Nadler, Cohen manages his policy work in that area, along with reproductive rights, gender equity, education, and Social Security. The role involves drafting and managing legislation, tracking floor and committee activity, providing vote recommendations, and meeting with important stakeholders in the healthcare field. Cohen saw the NYU MSHLS program as a “phenomenal opportunity” that would deepen her knowledge base in health law “to craft more impactful and targeted legislation.”

So far, the program has exceeded her expectations, she said. “Our professors range from the former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services to the Senior Vice President of the NYC Health + Hospitals system. My classmates are also leaders in the healthcare space who bring their own brilliant insights to each class.” An added benefit: “The class material has directly overlapped with some of the policy I’m reviewing at work.”

In fact, the immediacy and relevance of the curriculum are so striking that class content sometimes aligns directly with the big healthcare news of the day, Cohen said. “I’ve been better able to analyze proposed healthcare policy now that I’ve studied some of the key issues from a legal, economic, business, and ethics perspective. For example, we studied regulating AI in healthcare in our Strategy class around the time the Biden administration issued the executive order on AI. At the same time, my boss also wanted to address inappropriate denials of care due to use of AI in Medicare Advantage coverage decisions. My work in class better equipped me to work on that issue.”

Cohen’s ambition is to continue working towards health care equity in the policy world. “I believe everyone deserves access to quality healthcare, and this program will give me the tools and knowledge I need to be an effective changemaker in this space.”