In 2015, Gelvina Rodriguez Stevenson ’99 helped launch a health and life sciences section within the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA). As she drafted the proposal, she thought back on her involvement with NYU Law’s Law Alumni of Color Association (LACA).
“As a student, I realized quickly how incredibly important it is to have mentors and a community around you,” says Rodriguez Stevenson, who served as LACA vice president after her graduation. “When I was proposing this new section, I knew I was creating another space where people could build power and find support.… I had had good groundwork for that.”
As an associate general counsel at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co-chair of the HNBA health and life sciences law committee she helped found, Rodriguez Stevenson continues to bring people together to accomplish goals and build support networks. Through the HNBA, where Rodriguez Stevenson also serves as chair of the New York regional chapter, Rodriguez Stevenson connects Latinx lawyers and law students to discuss and advocate for diversity and representation across the legal profession. As an associate general counsel, she advises the hospital on the legal aspects of medical innovation. Her job includes helping form new companies around new medical technologies and guiding them through FDA requirements, clinical trial requirements, licensing, and other legal hurdles.
“It’s incredibly satisfying work,” says Rodriguez Stevenson, who adds that she enjoys the collaboration among the medical researchers, doctors, clinical patients, advocates, and others working to bring the new technologies to market.
At NYU Law, Rodriguez Stevenson studied under a joint degree program with Princeton University’s School for Public Policy, earning both her JD and master’s degree in public policy in 1999. At the Law School, she co-chaired the Latino Law Students Association and was active in LACA, where she met Jenny Rivera ’85, who is now associate judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. The two eventually worked together on a number of projects through the HNBA, of which both are members.
“Gelvina has this ability to look around her and say, ‘What more can be done, what else needs to be done? We must always be doing better,’” says Rivera. “This is epitomized in her creation of the health law committee…. Her commitment to giving back, her deep humanity and desire to make our profession more equitable, fair, and just—in the truest sense make her the very best of NYU Law.”
After Law School, Rodriguez Stevenson spent two years in corporate finance law before clerking for Judge Audrey Collins on the US District Court for the Central District of California. After her clerkship, she took a position in the legislative branch of the New York City Council, where she was assigned to the health law committee.
“It was really at that moment where I was like, ‘Okay, I have found it. This is what I love in law,” says Rodriguez Stevenson. “These kinds of health-related laws and policies touch every part of your life.”
Looking for a greater work-life balance after having twins, Rodriguez Stevenson took a position as associate university counsel at Weill Cornell Medical College, where she worked for eight years. She then spent six months working on the legal issues surrounding clinical trials for a pharmaceutical company before accepting a position as associate general counsel for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
In addition to helping to spin out companies around new medical innovations, Rodriguez Stevenson provides legal support to health care providers around insurance, HIPAA, privacy, and other matters.
“It’s a dream job,” says Rodriguez Stevenson, noting that her role as associate general counsel positions her to be an effective advocate for social change.
“In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, corporations were coming out on the record and calling for greater diversity, and general counsels are in a position to advocate for those changes and realize them because they have the ear of the C-suite and the boards of these companies,” she says. “The more GCs we can bring together around these issues, the more pressure we can put on corporations to enact them. I feel a lot of hope that needed changes can be made.”
Posted July 15, 2021. Update August 4, 2022: In June 2022, Rodriguez Stevenson became vice president, general counsel, secretary and government relations at the Wistar Institute, an international biomedical research organization.