Health Advocacy Clinic

Professor Colleen Boraca, Clinical Associate Professor

Register on MyNIU just as you do for other courses. After registering on MyNIU:

  • Complete a Clinic Information Form for scheduling purposes
  • Complete an application for a 711 License (recommended)

See the Clinical Program website for instructions for completing both forms.

Credits and Grading 4 credits Pass/Fail
Max. Enrollment 8 students
 Prerequisites Professional Responsibility (643) (may be taken concurrently with the Clinic)
711 Requirement There is no 711 requirement, but it is strongly recommended. Students in their second semester of their 2L year are eligible as long as they are currently taking or have taken Professional Responsibility (643).
Orientation Requirement Students must attend an orientation for the clinical program, which is generally held on the Thursday or Friday during the week prior to the beginning of the semester.  Clinic orientation is not required for the summer semester.
Seminar Class and Clinical Component
  • Seminar Class: One hour 50 minutes each week during spring/fall semesters. Date/time/Room will be announced the same as other classes.  See Professor Boraca for summer semester details.
  • Clinical Component: In addition to the seminar class, students must spend 12 hours per week on case work.  Students must be present at the Health Advocacy Clinic a minimum of 8 hours per week.  See Professor Boraca for summer semester details.
Additional Clinic Hours Students must be available to work on behalf of clients at additional times to meet the total clinic hour requirement


Issues facing homeless persons are multifaceted and complex.  Poverty – along with poor health – may increase the level of stress a person is dealing with on a daily basis.  Health issues lead to other stressors, such as insurance problems, missed work, and even mobility or breathing issues that make every day activities more difficult.  Likewise, socio-environmental issues (i.e. homelessness, lack of food, violence) can contribute to poor health. 

These issues, of course, are beyond the scope of a medical professional, who only has the times and resources to treat the underlying medical condition.  But it is these very issues that directly impact a person’s health and well-being.  A team of professionals – in medicine, law, and social work – working together in an integrated fashion can begin to address the unmet socio-environmental needs of clients.  Providing more holistic care to clients will not only improve their health outcomes but also their life circumstances.

The intervention of an attorney and law students enhances the care provided to clients on-site at Hesed House homeless shelter in Aurora, Illinois.  For example, if a client became homeless because he/she can no longer work due to medical conditions, an attorney can help that client apply for or appeal the denial of Social Security disability benefits.  A malnourished patient who lacks the funds to buy food may need assistance applying for food stamps or another type of public assistance for which they are eligible.  Ultimately, resolution of these issues reduces stress levels and improves health.

Students will represent clients in public benefits matters (such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and SNAP).  They will assist clients with advanced care planning such as completing powers of attorney for health care.  Additionally, students are beginning to represent clients with expunging /sealing criminal records.  They will interview and counsel clients, perform legal research and writing, and advocate on behalf of clients in court (if the student has a 711 license) and/or before administrative agencies.  They will educate the residents of Hesed House about their legal rights.  Students will work closely with medical providers from Aunt Martha’s Health Center and staff members of Hesed House in this medical-legal partnership.