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Faculty mentor guides 3-time ASU alum to career in health law

Woman wearing a maroon cap and gown in an audience of similarly dressed people, smiling next to another woman.

Three-time ASU alumna Mary Saxon (left) with College of Health Solutions Clinical Associate Professor Swapna Reddy (right) at Saxon's 2019 graduation ceremony for Barrett, The Honors College. Photo courtesy Mary Saxon

June 07, 2024

Though she began her academic career at Arizona State University with designs of becoming a doctor, the relationship Mary Saxon formed with her health care disparities course instructor — who also happens to be an attorney — helped point her in a different direction.

This September, Saxon will start work with a national law firm’s Phoenix office in their health law group. And she’ll do so with a healthy body of scholarly articles under her belt, including one she wrote with Clinical Associate Professor Swapna Reddy (the aforementioned health care disparities course instructor) for The Conversation last month: “Arizona's now-repealed abortion ban serves as a cautionary tale for reproductive health care across the US.”

The start of something new

Saxon had been working at a clinic while studying as an undergraduate at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU when she realized she was more interested in why things were being done the way they were than in being involved in patient care. Later, the health care disparities course she took through ASU’s College of Health Solutions solidified that.

“That got me interested in health policy,” Saxon said. “Because health care is such a regulated industry, there are so many rules and you have to do things a certain way, and I was really curious about why. I happened to sign up for Dr. Reddy’s health disparities class and I found it really interesting.”

The feeling was mutual.

“From the moment I met Mary in my undergraduate health disparities course, I was struck by her engagement and maturity,” Reddy said.

When Saxon reached out to Reddy to inquire about research opportunities, Reddy said “it was simply a no-brainer to work with her.”

“Mary has consistently been one of the strongest students I've ever had the pleasure to learn with, in and out of the classroom, due to her work ethic, genuine interest in the fields of health policy and equity, intelligence, dependability, maturity, kindness and exemplary work product,” Reddy said.

Eventually, Reddy would also serve on Saxon’s Barrett Honors thesis committee before Saxon went on to earn a master’s degree in the science of health care delivery.

A future in health law

While working with Reddy throughout her undergrad and graduate studies, Saxon began to entertain the idea of law school.

“She was the first lawyer I ever met and the first person to suggest I would make a good lawyer,” Saxon said of Reddy.

As a student at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Saxon had internships with various state and federal government agencies and private law firms that helped sharpen her focus on health law. She credits the law school’s Center for Public Health Law and Policy and its director, James Hodge, and co-director, Jennifer Piatt, for fine-tuning that interest.

“That’s where I was able to fuse my interest in public health that I cultivated at (the College of Health Solutions) with the law,” Saxon said. “Professor James Hodge and Professor Jennifer Piatt do a great job running a center where we respond to a lot of cutting-edge public health law issues. Most recently, this year, I was tracking Supreme Court cases and their impact on public health. I really loved the opportunity to continue my interest in public health but with more of a legal lens.”

Saxon graduated from ASU Law this spring. While there, she earned a certificate in health law and policy, and in her third year served as a managing editor for the Arizona State Law Journal.

This fall, the three-time ASU alum and Flinn Scholar will begin working in health law for the firm Quarles and Brady. She said the firm’s national presence in health law is exciting.

“What’s great about the firm I’m going to is I’ll be advising clients across the country,” Saxon said. “I won’t only be advising on Arizona law, but I like that there will be diversity in understanding how states and the federal government approach various issues in health care.”

It's safe to say Saxon is happy with how things turned out, and she hasn’t forgotten how it all came to be.

“I think if I hadn’t taken that (health disparities) class,” she said, “I might not be where I am today.”

Saxon added, “I love ASU. If you want to do something, you can make it happen at ASU.”

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