Captain Justina Molzon enrolled in our evening program after carving out an impressive career in the field of public health. At IIT Chicago-Kent, she leveraged her professional assets to excel in the study of law, eventually extending her reach to the national and international levels of public health policy and initiatives.
The three things Justina Molzon '85 uses most from her law school experience are writing, negotiating and avoiding worst-case scenarios.
"Law school changes the way you think," she notes. "I can't walk across the street without thinking of comparative fault." But it didn't make her a pessimist. "You have to know the worst case to avoid it," she observes. "That's the optimistic approach. How can you remedy something? It keeps you on a positive path."
Justina's career path began at the University of Rhode Island, where she earned a pharmacy degree. "My mother told me I could be a nurse, a teacher or a pharmacist," she recalls. "She had talked to the town pharmacist. I was always good at science, so I thought it would be a good profession." Justina got her master's in pharmaceutics and pharmacognosy, the science of deriving medicine from natural sources.
Satisfying an urge for public service, Justina spent five years on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona with the U.S. Public Health Service. A court case pitting the Navajos against the Hopis over mineral rights led to imperfect legislation, she said, that made her job more difficult. That experience increased not only her interest in the law, but her desire to see it done right.
In 1980, Justina relocated to Chicago to take a job as the regional pharmacist consultant with the Health Care Financing Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services. When she arrived in February, the only law school whose deadline hadn't passed was Chicago-Kent. Justina had also heard about the law school's legal writing program.
"We all wanted to quit after the first paper," she recalls. In fact, one member of her study group called the school to quit but was put on hold. While waiting, he changed his mind.
"We figured it was part of the process of becoming an attorney," she recalls. "We were being changed somehow, and we were rebelling."
After her first year in law school, Justina took a position as a hospital pharmacist, working the midnight shift at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in intensive care, figuring if she worked after school then slept during the days, she would be fresher for classes in the evening. Today she is the associate director of international programs for the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, which she joined in 1990. Her ability to "flip time zones," she says, has served her well, as have the skills she acquired in Negotiations and in Legal Writing, her favorite classes at Chicago-Kent.
At the FDA, Justina coordinates efforts to make therapeutic drugs more accessible worldwide through "harmonization" of the various regulations related to the registration of pharmaceuticals.
"Every regulatory agency has way too much to do and not enough resources," she notes. "It's important for agencies to start working together to promote better health globally."