LECOM students get Constitutional lesson
Guest speakers visit school for Constitution Day


Ask your average first- or second-year medical student about Constitution Day and one is likely to be met with a reflective pause, followed by a simple question: “What is Constitution Day?”

Constitution Day is an American federal holiday that recognizes the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It is observed on Sept. 17, the day the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed the document in 1787. The law establishing Constitution Day as a holiday was created in 2004. In May 2005, the U.S. Department of Education announced the enactment of this law and that it would apply to any school receiving federal funds of any kind.

Michael J. Rigelsky, Esq., discusses the Constitution and privacy rights with LECOM School of Pharmacy students.

Though it is a relatively new holiday, more and more educational institutions have taken major steps to incorporate discussion about the U.S. Constitution and the government. At LECOM locations in Erie, Pa., and Bradenton, Fla., guest speakers helped discuss the role of the Constitution in public policy while offering insights into how the document affects us on a daily basis.

LECOM Erie
On Sept. 17, Michael J. Rigelsky, Esq., visited the school and met with osteopathic and pharmacy students to discuss the 220-year-old document and the government it helped establish.

Rigelsky took time to talk about the Constitution and how it applies to people living in 21st century America. Rigelsky, who practices in the litigation and business law sections of Manchester, Bennett, Powers & Ullman, L.P.A., provided common situations that illustrated how Constitutional rights are exercised and how U.S. citizens are protected – or not protected – by those laws.

“How many of you think the Constitution provides you with a right to privacy?” he asked. Though students offered varying theories about a person’s privacy rights in America, Rigelsky was quick to point out just how complex the government’s application of the Constitution has become over the course of 220 years.

Throughout his interactive presentation, he regularly called on students to get their impression of how the Constitution works, specifically in regard to the creation of legislation and the balance of power between the three branches of government.

Major Regan Shabloski, D.O., Medical Corps, Pennsylvania Army National Guard and Director of Clinical Education at LECOM, discussed the Constitution with the College of Medicine class of 2013. During his presentation, Dr. Shabloski referenced several instances from his own military and civilian experiences.

“As you can see, I have a unique perspective on the Constitution as a military officer sworn to support and defend it against all enemies, both foreign and domestic,” he said.

Dr. Shabloski supplemented his own experiences with a series of trivia questions about the Constitution. Students attempted to answer questions about the framing of the Constitution, the origin of the title “President of the United States” and in which order the states ratified the original document.

LECOM Bradenton
In Florida, State Rep. Bill Galvano encouraged LECOM Bradenton medical students to understand the importance of the Constitution.

“It is important that you all be aware of the significance of this document,” said Galvano, the keynote speaker at Constitution Day. “We need to stop from time-to-time to think about the importance of the Constitution and its importance to America.”

LECOM Bradenton associate dean of academic affairs Robert George, DO (center) listens in as second-year medical student Michael Heck speaks with State Rep. Bill Galvano during Constitution Day festivities at the College.

The first- and second-year medical students listened intently as Galvano – a member of the Florida House of Representatives since 2002 - spoke about the history of the Constitution and how it impacts the decisions made at the local, state and national levels.

“The Constitution is at the heart of the decisions that we make. It is what separates us from any other nation in the world,” he said. “It is the road map that allows us to live, thrive and be successful as a nation.”

LECOM at Seton Hill
Constitution Day at LECOM at Seton Hill focused on the court case of Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs v. von Eschenbach. Decided in August 2007 by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the case addressed whether terminally ill adult patients who had failed all available approved treatments have a constitutional right of access to medications that are not yet FDA approved.

According to Irv Freeman, Ph.D., J.D., Vice President for LECOM at Seton Hill, the Abigail Alliance case provided a perfect vehicle for teaching students about the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution and the way in which the concept of “Substantive Due Process” protects Americans’ life, liberty, and property.

The first year medical students were temporarily transported to a law school environment as Dr. Freeman, using a modified Socratic method, led them through analyses of due process problems. The students learned to classify citizens’ liberty and property interests as either “Fundamental Rights” or as lesser interests. Then, they learned to apply the appropriate test to the government’s attempted interference with the interest – “strict scrutiny” of interference with a Fundamental Right, but only the easy to-pass “rational basis scrutiny” of interference with a lesser interest.

September 17, 2009
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