Carly Myers ’17

As a first-year law student, Carly Myers had a “life changing experience” while serving as a legal intern with the Tennessee Justice Center, which advocates on behalf of low-income Tennesseans to secure access to basic necessities, including health care.

Her client needed psychological and behavioral health testing to access disability accommodations, which the State’s TennCare Medicaid program had denied. Myers represented the girl at an administrative hearing. “Our appeal was successful, and she got the services she needed,” she said. “That reaffirmed my commitment to public interest work—I know 100 percent that this is the career I want to pursue. I want to help individuals like this child.”

Myers’ interest in empowering people with disabilities through health care delivery changes stems from personal experience. She has a physical disorder and, particularly when she was young, required extensive health care to improve her long-term functioning. “I was lucky—my family was able to cover my medical expenses,” she said. “But my eyes were opened: what does a person do when they are unable to access the health care they need to equally participate in the world?”

During college, Myers worked as a unit clerk at a rehabilitation hospital in Gainesville, Florida, where she assisted patients, families, and medical staff and managed medical records and admissions. “Working with patients undergoing physical rehabilitation, I was exposed to inefficiencies and systemic problems with the health care system,” she recalled.

For Myers, who has “always known I wanted to pursue social justice,” a law degree was the next logical step. She chose Vanderbilt after a visit. “The academics and professors at Vanderbilt are truly amazing, and I liked the collegial atmosphere—everybody here is working together and we are a stronger whole because of it,” she said.

She has found her coursework at Vanderbilt challenging and useful. “I’ve used what I learned in Professor [James] Blumstein’s Constitutional Law II class in every internship I’ve had,” she said. “Poverty Law—which was taught by attorneys I knew from the Tennessee Justice Center—was a truly inspiring course, and Professor [Michael] Newton’s International Protection of Human Rights was an informative and thought-provoking class.” She also served as conventions editor for the Vanderbilt Law Review and was the top contributor of pro bono hours for the Class of 2017. At Commencement, she received the Bennett Douglas Bell Memorial Prize, awarded to “the student of the senior law class who is not only well-versed in the law, but who shows the highest conception of the ethics of the profession.”

Carly Myers '17In addition to her work at the Tennessee Justice Center, for which she received a stipend from the Vanderbilt Legal Aid Society, Myers also externed at Disability Rights Tennessee in spring 2016. In summer 2016, she was one of five recipients of a stipend from the George Barrett Social Justice Program to support her work at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley, California, where she advocated on behalf of persons with disabilities to improve access to health care and specifically mobility devices, such as wheelchairs.

That work  led to her application for a George Barrett Social Justice Fellowship, which Vanderbilt awards each year to up to two graduates seeking to launch public interest careers. Myers received the one-year fellowship to return to the DREDF in Berkeley to start a new program advocating for low-income people with disabilities who face legal barriers to accessing mobility aids, such as wheelchairs. The idea for her fellowship project came from her work on behalf of several clients with disabilities, including a four-year-old girl who needed a walker, as a legal intern at DREDF during summer 2016. “Long delays are common with both public and private health insurance plans,” Myers said. “This is particularly devastating for children, who often have already outgrown the equipment by the time they receive it.” She also advocated for a 40-year-old man with spina bifida who needed a wheelchair powerful enough for outdoor use. “Many plans cover only mobility equipment for use inside your house, denying people access to employment, education, and community involvement outside their home,” she said.

Myers’ student Note, “Police Violence Against People with Mental Disabilities: An Immutable Duty Under the ADA to Reasonably Accommodate During Arrest,” was published in the Vanderbilt Law Review in May 2017.