Dr. Andrew Seibert (J.D. ’21) spent 13 years of his life practicing gastroenterology. Originally from the Midwest, he moved to Lawrenceville, Georgia to begin working. Not knowing the area well, Seibert only planned to stay at that practice for a year, but within six months business was booming, and he was enjoying both his work and his community.
Then on what was otherwise an ordinary Monday night, Seibert’s life changed in an instant. He slipped and hit his head on the edge of the shower in the bathroom, breaking his neck. Luckily, his girlfriend was there, who was able to call 911.
“They helped guide her through how to do mouth to mouth,” Seibert said. “She kept me alive for about 10 minutes until the ambulance arrived, and I woke up from a coma in the hospital three days later paralyzed from my shoulders down.”
It stayed that way for about six months, but little by little with the help of physical therapy and a lot of struggle Seibert was able to gain back some movement. It took two years before he could take his first steps, and four years before he could drive.
“The problem is that I am a gastroenterologist, and I don’t have arms that really work,” said Seibert. “I can move them some, but I can’t do a colonoscopy. I can’t maneuver like that, so I’m essentially not able to work in my own field.”
Seibert began seeing patients via telemedicine but was missing the fulfillment he normally felt as a doctor. He then thought back to a time before medical school when he had debated law school. With Georgia State’s No. 1 Health Law Program, Seibert figured he could leverage his medical knowledge while also learning a new skill.
Seibert told himself he would try out law school, and there would be no pressure if he decided not to finish the degree. Four years of part-time, evening classes later, Seibert is graduating with his J.D. and a certificate in Health Law. He is also one of two recipients of the 2021 Charity Scott Health Law Award.
“It’s a huge honor,” Seibert said. “It makes me feel really good about what I’ve achieved because the faculty are in the best position to be able to tell who they feel deserves it. I really feel honored that I was chosen.”
Seibert hopes to find a career where he can use both his legal and medical background, but currently his priority is on passing the bar in July. He plans to continue seeing patients part time via telemedicine regardless and says studying health law will make him a better doctor.
“I am able to fill in the background behind things that I used every day,” Seibert said. “For example, HIPAA is a mainstream part of medicine now, but who’s ever read through the actual law? In class, we read enough of it to really get into the nitty gritty about things that I never understood but had automatically been doing.”
It wasn’t an easy decision for Seibert to take on law school, considering all of the difficult life changes he was also dealing with. But some friends put things in perspective for him saying quite simply, “three or four years from now, you’re either going to have a law degree or you’re not going to have a law degree”, and Seibert decided to give it a go.
“I had a lot of free time because my whole life was focused on physical therapy and seeing just a few patients online,” Seibert said. “This gave me a different focus. Learning something new is beneficial for the mind. Plus, I wasn’t wasting all my time just getting really, really good at online scrabble.”
The Health Law Award is named in honor of Charity Scott, Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Center for Law, Health & Society, who generously endowed this award. It is administered by the Georgia Hospital Association. The award is granted to a 3L student who demonstrates outstanding achievement in the area of health law.