Published in the Graduate Report, Spring/Summer 2013
Marcia M. Boumil ’83 dedicates her very busy professional life to important issues at the intersection of public health and the law. As an associate professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM), she teaches three courses in the field of law, policy and ethics to students in Tufts’ combined M.D./M.P.H. program. In her role as director of the School of Medicine’s joint J.D./M.P.H. program with Northeastern University School of Law, she administers the program, serves as student advisor, and teaches a capstone course that requires students to work on community projects with both legal and public health components. As assistant dean of conflict administration at TUSM, she monitors faculty involvement with the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, helps set policy and, in her words, “is the face of the school in its conflict of interest initiatives.” And as if her work at Tufts weren’t enough to fill her day, she also directs the Comprehensive Family Evaluation Center at Tufts Medical Center, a program she founded in 1999 to perform family evaluations in the fields of child custody, child and sexual abuse, visitation, domestic violence, and other issues involving children and families in the court system.
Boumil’s interest in the law took shape while she was working on her M.P.H. at Tufts in 1979. “When I started the program it became clear that the law was the way to make things happen in public health,” says Boumil, who completed the M.P.H. program during her summer breaks from UConn Law. “In public health we have lots of tools to get things done, like educational programs and public service announcements. But it’s when we pass laws that require us to wear seat belts or motorcycle helmets, for example, that we really have an impact on public health.”
With an M.P.H. and law degree under her belt, Boumil decided to next pursue an LL.M. at Columbia, where she took additional health law courses and enhanced her teaching credentials. After completing the program, she returned to Boston to practice law. “The philosophy was that in order to be a lawyer you had to practice,” recalls Boumil with a chuckle. “So I drank the Kool-Aid and went out to practice for a few years, including at a big litigation firm where I did some medical malpractice work and other health-related stuff…I still had teaching very much in mind, however. There was absolutely no question that I was going to teach.”
And teach she has. In addition to teaching at Tufts Medical School (where she started as a lecturer in community health in 1986, worked her way up the academic ladder, and has been a full-time member of the faculty since 2002), Boumil has been a lecturer in law at Boston College Law School, an adjunct and visiting professor at Suffolk University Law School, an adjunct professor in Simmons College’s graduate program in health care administration, and an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. (In her not-so-spare time, Boumil earned an M.A. in psychology from Boston College in 1992.) She also spent several years teaching health law as an adjunct in the Tufts/Brandeis M.D./M.B.A. program.
Somehow, for nearly twenty years Boumil also has made time to serve as a guardian ad litem in the juvenile and probate court systems. “Back when I had a couple of small kids at home I got involved because I could spend a few hours here and there,” explains Boumil, the proud mother of two sons: James, 25, an intellectual property lawyer in Boston, and Gregory, 24, an engineer who is currently completing his M.B.A. at Brandeis. “I continue to do it, although today I have only three to four cases in the course of the year. All the work I do now has to do with a very specific kind of case – kids in state custody who are on anti-psychotic medication…I talk to the foster parents, the psychiatrists and the school teachers to get a sense if the kid is really out of control and needs this powerful medication, or whether he is just a kid in a tough circumstance that is being over-medicated to keep him quiet.”
A tireless advocate for the health and safety of children and families, Boumil has written and co-written numerous articles on such topics as children in the court system, sexual harassment, and mental health issues in family law. Her scholarly publications also include co-authored textbooks and trade books on medical liability, women and the law, date rape and deadbeat dads. “My current writing and research is focused on the conflict of interest area, particularly the off-label marketing issue [in the pharmaceutical industry] and its relationship to the First Amendment,” she says. “Another subject I have written on recently is the Massachusetts law that prohibits physicians from taking [promotional] gifts from pharmaceutical companies, another issue that begs First Amendment questions.”
Clearly, Marcia Boumil wears many professional hats. But it’s her work in the classroom that keeps her most energized. “Teaching has always been the focus of what I do, even with respect to my conflict of interest work,” she says. “That is what I am most passionate about.”
FACT: On multiple occasions, Marcia Boumil ’83 has been the recipient of the Tufts University School of Medicine’s “Excellence in Teaching Award” – an honor that recognizes her work in both the M.D./M.P.H. and M.D./M.B.A. programs.