The Charger Blog

Public Health Students Reflect on ‘Great Opportunity’ to Learn From Guest Speaker

Anne C. Dranginis, a trailblazer and retired Connecticut Appellate Court Judge, recently spoke to University of New Haven public health graduate students, sharing her own experience and offering wisdom and inspiration.

March 9, 2023

By Vishwa Rahulkumar Shah ’24 MPH, Kenneth Chijioke Onuh ’24 MPH, and Christianah Aderemi ’24 MPH

University campus
The University of New Haven’s campus in West Haven, Conn.

Candidates in the University’s Master of Public Health program recently had the opportunity to learn from Anne C. Dranginis, a trailblazer and retired Connecticut Appellate Court Judge. The class, taught by Audrey Blondin, J.D., MPH, and Matthew Blondin, OD, has enabled students to learn from several law and policy leaders, including Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. Many of the students are international students, and they say they appreciated the opportunity to connect with leaders and lawmakers in the U.S.

Judge Dranginis retired as an associate judge of the Connecticut Appellate Court after serving for more than two decades on the Superior and Appellate Courts. During her career, she was involved with many important cases, including Griswold v. Connecticut, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that the U.S. Constitution protects the liberty of married couples to buy and use contraceptives.

Below, several students reflect on Judge Dranginis’s talk and why this was a great opportunity for them.

Vishwa Rahulkumar Shah ’24 MPH

As an international student, I have earned my Bachelor of Science in nursing in my home country of India. I have four years of clinical experience, and during the pandemic, I worked in an ICU unit. I helped vaccinate more than 12,000 people and received an award as a COVID warrior. I have done six months of an internship as a staff nurse in a government hospital. I am now continuing my education and gaining important experience at the University of New Haven.

Vishwa Rahulkumar Shah ’24 MPH
Vishwa Rahulkumar Shah '24 MPH

It was a privilege for me to take a “Law and Public Health” course taught by Prof. Audrey Blondin and Prof. Matthew Blondin. I am a transfer student from Long Island University Brooklyn, and I got a scholarship to attend the University of New Haven. It has been a great honor for me receive an education from this University. I consider myself very lucky to have this kind of university as part of my destiny.

It is a spectacular opportunity that in “Law and Public Health,” we’ve heard from guest speakers who have made positive impacts on our minds. We learn from their tremendous experience, as they have worked for many years in different public health capacities. They are highly professional, sharing their experience and their thoughts, knowledge, and skills. We learned about current scenarios that impact the entire United States.

Secondly, doubt clearance is an important thing that every student needs to address, and by learning from these professionals, we can clear our doubts and queries regarding any topic. Moreover, we can get satisfactory responses through them, and we can improve ourselves and eliminate potential mistakes for our future.

Lastly, if any professionals provide a particular training in their program, then we can take that training and build our professional skills. I believe every student needs to listen to guest speakers and take notes. Address your doubts, and be professional and attentive. It is beneficial for our futures.

Kenneth Chijioke Onuh ’24 MPH

Judge Anne Dranginis graduated from UConn Law School, where she attended its Hartford Campus, in 1969. She also earned a degree from Manhattanville College. The Judge explained how science helped her fundamental experience when she was trying criminal cases as a prosecutor.

Kenneth Chijioke Onuh ’24 MPH
Kenneth Chijioke Onuh '24 MPH

What captivated my attention was the case of Bobby Seale. Bobby Seale was charged with capital murder in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1970, in connection with the kidnapping, torture and shooting of 24-year-old Panther member, Alex Rackley, of New York. Police said Rackley was killed because Seale believed him to be a police informant. Seale was acquitted of the charge on an 11-1 jury count.

Judge Dranginis elaborated on the relevance of a woman in the same case. She told us about Erica Huggins, a woman who was involved with the Black Panthers and who was tried alongside Bobby Seale and Catherine Roarback.

The Judge said we should use our power appropriately in a public setting. I was able to learn how to diversify my knowledge in and beyond my area of specialization and other areas, as it would have a benefit in my life in time to come.

This was a great opportunity for me to meet top people with political clout in Connecticut and the United States at large. I believe this will contribute to my resume. I recommend this kind of opportunity for other students, even those who are not in public health. It’s important to have these great opportunities to meet with important people in the society, which can be difficult for international students in their home countries.

Christianah Aderemi ’24 MPH

Judge Anne Dranginis was invited as a guest speaker in a virtual meeting with the University of New Haven’s master of public health students. She spoke in a course taught by Professor Audrey Blondin and Doctor Matthew Blondin. I call them the power couple.

Anne Dranginis is a retired Connecticut Appellate Court Judge who served for more than 20 years on the Superior and Appellate Courts. She is recognized as a leader in the legal community. While in service, she addressed various bills and policies that are of importance to public health, including “the right to die” bill, the banning of assault weapons, and the death penalty, among others.

Christianah Aderemi ’24 MPH
Christianah Aderemi '24 MPH

Judge Dranginis started the class by addressing the issues of discrimination against women and how, during her time, it was difficult for women to get admitted into a law school as well as get a job in a reputable law firm. Even though the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution calls for equal rights of protection among every gender, it is upsetting to realize that women are still being constantly discriminated against in almost every career, and many women also experience stigmatization from their own family members.

Also, she mentioned that her passion for prosecution was born out of the fact that she believed it could be done in a fairer way. As a judge, she contributed to the safety of the country by working closely with various departments, such as the state police, forensics, and many others, in order to diligently prosecute criminals who are harmful to others in the society, thereby making the state a safer place.

Lastly, she expressed her disappointment on how the country has gotten to a stage where there are more guns than people, which she blamed on the Supreme Court, since it has not addressed the issues relating to safe firearms as being important to the U.S. law.

Personally, I always admire women who diligently prove that being a wife and a mother is not a reason to give up one’s ambition. As a student whose passion is to fight the dysfunctional healthcare system in her country, I was inspired by Judge Dranginis speaking about how she fought her way through the stringent discrimination in her career. This gives me the encouragement I need to flourish in this chosen path.

I personally commend the effort of Professor Audrey Blondin and Dr. Matthew Blondin in making this class an impactful experience for all the students. This class gave us an opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with some of the top leaders relevant to our passion. Having these guest speakers sharing their experiences with our class full of diversity matters a great deal because it better prepares us for the task ahead as public health leaders when we get back to our various countries.

Vishwa Rahulkumar Shah ’24 MPH, Kenneth Chijioke Onuh ’24 MPH, and Christianah Aderemi ’24 MPH are candidates in the University’s Master of Public Health program.