Gonzaga Law Welcomes Mason Marks as New Assistant Professor
Mason Marks, M.D., J.D. will join the Gonzaga Law community as an assistant professor starting in August 2019. Marks earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Amherst College and his M.D. from Tufts University before heading to Vanderbilt University to earn his J.D.
Dr. Marks practiced law in San Francisco where he advised clients on securing and defending intellectual property rights. After transitioning into academia, he worked as a research scholar at NYU Law School’s Information Law Institute and a visiting fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project.
Dr. Marks’ research focuses on health law, data privacy, and FDA regulation. He is particularly interested in the application of artificial intelligence to medical decision making and how new technologies disrupt the flow of health information. His law and technology writing has been published in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WIRED, and Motherboard. His research on using AI for suicide prediction was recently featured in The New York Times.
Q&A with Professor Marks
Your first semester with Gonzaga Law starts this fall. What will you be teaching?
This semester I will teach Health Law and a seminar on FDA regulation and drug policy. In the spring, I will teach Constitutional Law and a seminar on law and artificial intelligence.
You’ve studied and researched at Amherst, Tufts, Vanderbilt, Yale, and NYU. How does it feel to move so far west?
I am thrilled to relocate to Washington. Though I spent many years on the east coast, I also lived and practiced law in California. So in many ways, moving west feels like a homecoming. I’m excited to take advantage of the outdoor activities in the area. Spokane and Washington State are also home to many tech and healthcare companies, so it’s a great place for me given my research interests.
You transitioned to academia after working in the medical and legal industries. Was teaching always the plan? If not, what drew you to academia?
I have always been drawn to teaching, and academia has been a longstanding goal. Part of the appeal is that it allows you to be a lifelong learner, and you can share your enthusiasm for learning with others.
Teaching law is particularly exciting because understanding the law is empowering. It allows people to stand up for themselves and the people and causes they care about.
What excites you about the intersection between medicine, law, and IP? What is troubling?
We live in a time of unparalleled medical innovation. New technologies such as gene editing, 3D-printing, and machine learning could change the way that medicine is practiced. If properly crafted, the law can stimulate these innovations and promote equal access to them. I find that very exciting. But the law can also be misused in ways that stifle innovation and restrict access to a privileged few. So far, we haven’t achieved the right balance between promoting innovation and protecting IP rights, and there is a lot of work to be done in this area. I find that both troubling and exciting.
"We live in a time of unparalleled medical innovation."Are there any professors from your educational experiences that continue to influence or inspire your own teaching practice?
I am fortunate to have had excellent teachers throughout my education. But the faculty at Vanderbilt Law School really stand out. Sean Seymore was my patent law professor. His enthusiasm for law and technology is infectious. Professor Owen Jones taught me to constantly question the law and to articulate how it should ideally be written. Ellen Wright Clayton and Larry Bridgesmith taught me the importance of allowing students to lead and collaborate in the classroom and demonstrated the tools to do so effectively.
What’s your advice to incoming Gonzaga Law 1L students?
I would emphasize that law is a powerful tool for promoting justice and bringing about social change. If you ever feel discouraged, remind yourself of that. Law is also a beautiful subject to study because it is fundamentally about the human experience, social interactions, and determining how we should live. Law school will challenge you, excite you, reward you, and frustrate you at the same time. But don’t be discouraged because your legal education is a resource that will benefit you and others for the rest of your life. That may be a lot to contemplate, so perhaps my best advice is to live in the moment and take law school one day at a time. Don’t be afraid to rely on your peers and Gonzaga’s faculty and staff along the way.
"Law is also a beautiful subject to study because it is fundamentally about the human experience, social interactions, and determining how we should live. Law school will challenge you, excite you, reward you, and frustrate you at the same time."
Photo courtesy of Jermone Pollos.