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2021 graduate Earns Second Prize in 23rd Annual Health Law Writing Competition

by Elliot Laurence

Alma Carver (‘21) was recognized for her paper, “Reconsidering Controlled Human Infection Studies in a Paradigm Favoring Placebo Controlled Trials,” in the Epstein Becker Green Health Law Writing Competition.

Carver is the second consecutive Saint Lous University School of Law student to place in this competition, following fellow finalist Megan Hart from the 2020 contest. Carver’s paper details the potential value of controlled human infection studies (CHIs) in the context of public health emergencies.

Alma Carver

“It is time to reconsider the value of CHIs in accelerating our understanding of the underlying pathogens that cause disease. However, their inclusion must be done with care and attention to ethical considerations and by building trust between scientists and the general public,” Carver wrote in the introduction of her paper.

Carver notes how the mobility of the modern day leads to an increased rate of spreading diseases. As illnesses travel from one country to another, vaccine development must also adhere to the expeditious spread. Carver stated in her paper: “There is evidence to suggest that the rate at which we will continue to see such disease outbreaks will only increase, making it even more critical to develop vaccines for diseases like COVID-19 as efficiently and safely as possible.” 

The idea for this paper was developed in Professor Ana Santos Rutschman's seminar course titled “Emerging Health Technologies: Innovation, Law & Policy.” Professor Santos Rutschman also acted as a mentor for Carver while she was writing.

“Professor Santos Rutschman was instrumental in the development of this paper,” Carver said. “She made herself available to be a sounding board on various occasions, at all hours of the day to hear about my ideas and help me think critically about the argument I wanted to make and the organization of my ideas and research.” 

Carver’s work was inspired by the seminar course, as well as the global issue at hand.
“At the time I started the paper, we were only about six months into the pandemic and the vaccine race was in full force, but no single vaccine had been given emergency use authorization, so certainly the idea of how to accelerate a vaccine development timeline was front of mind,” Carver said.

“I think my proposal encourages changes in health law by revisiting a practice (CHIs) that has been used in varying contexts and at varying points in our history to understand disease, but by considering it in a context of an increasingly globalized society in which resources and information are shared readily across borders, and so too are disease pathogens.” 

Since graduation, Carver successfully completed the bar exam in July 2021. She is currently working as an associate within the health care practice group at Thompson Coburn, LLP after twice serving as a summer associate there.