“My past work has given me a unique perspective into the needs of patients. My experiences as a nurse have instilled in me a passion for making a difference in the lives of patients, their families, and health care providers.” Rachel Kourelis began her career as a registered nurse, tending to patients’ medical needs. She soon realized many patients also needed an advocate as they navigated the medical system, and she decided to pursue health law.
“Watching the patients I worked with experience injustices in our medical system made me passionate about pursuing an avenue to make a change,” she says.
Kourelis enrolled in Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s part-time Juris Doctor program, which has allowed her to attend law school while working in the medical field.
The 27-year-old St. Paul resident recently started a new position with the National Marrow Donor Program, where she’ll help build a nationwide network of centers to collect and process the material needed to develop new cancer immunotherapies. Her previous job was as a transplant coordinator for blood and marrow transplant patients at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Kourelis first discovered her interest in patient care and clinical research while studying biology at the University of Minnesota. Aft er graduating in 2012, she went on to become a nurse.
It was her time caring for blood and marrow transplant patients at City of Hope National Medical Center in Southern California that inspired her to begin her fight for patients’ rights.
She says earning a Juris Doctor is her first step toward helping those patients, their families and health care professionals. She expects to graduate in the spring of 2019.
“I hope to build upon my experience as a nurse to advocate for patients as they navigate the health care system. I want to eliminate some of the burdens of the financial and legal aspects of their care.”
“I hope to build upon my experience as a nurse to advocate for patients as they navigate the health care system,” she says. “I want to eliminate some of the burdens of the financial and legal aspects of their care.”
While studying to become an attorney, Kourelis is also working toward certificates in health law and health care compliance through Mitchell Hamline’s Health Law Institute. The institute, which is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top health law programs in the country, provides students with real-life health law experience, specialized courses, and experiential learning opportunities.
Kourelis says the Health Law Institute has exposed her to a number of potential career opportunities aft er graduation.
“The Health Law Institute certificate from Mitchell Hamline offered the opportunity to learn about health care policy and regulation from professors with diverse backgrounds,” Kourelis says. “Having the opportunity to learn from professors whose careers and experience I can identify with has been a rewarding experience.”
No matter what she does in the future, Kourelis says her time with patients during difficult and life-threatening situations will always serve as the basis for her practice of law.
“My past work has given me a unique perspective into the needs of patients,” she says. “My experiences as a nurse have instilled in me a passion for making a difference in the lives of patients, their families, and health care providers.”