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Ethics & Corporate Compliance with David Chen

Ethics and Corporate Compliance is a nuanced topic meriting a broad yet knowledgeable perspective. Kelli Rodriguez Currie, Seattle University’s Director of our Master of Legal Studies program and our new Sports Law Program, was joined by Healthcare Risk Management professional David Chen for a conversation on this complex, innovative field.

The Path to Change

David Chen is a 2010 alum of the Seattle University School of Law. Upon graduation, he managed to get his foot in the door in the middle of the recession. “I think that’s really important to point out, because legal practice, particularly within risk and compliance, is shaped by the things that are going on in our society.” As we discovered, this is just one example of David’s profound ability to see the forest for the trees even while tackling intricate issues.

David transitioned from law school into civil litigation practice, becoming particularly immersed in police misconduct and employment discrimination. Then, he became an in-house counsel for a nonprofit organization, where he managed all regulatory compliance activities related to privacy, HIPAA, information security compliance, and more. He got the chance to build the corporate ethics and compliance program from the ground up, and in doing so, discovered his mission and calling.

Ethics and Corporate Compliance

Shaping Systems, Moving a Mission Forward

His path led to any meaningful, fulfilling career. “When we look back at our own path and our own leadership journey, it’s oftentimes the things that you least expect that would bring us to where we are.” His current role at Central City Concern is both visionary and practical. “It’s the direction I wanted to go long-term, because when we’re looking at shaping policy, we’re shaping systems and moving a mission forward.”

The issues surrounding homelessness, mental illness, and addiction require deliberate healthcare, and his company has run around 12 federally qualified health clinics. “One of the great joys is looking at all that complexity at the same time, then also thinking about ways an organization can impact that one day at a time. Housing, health, recovery, education, and how they all come together and intersect in this space.”

The Power of an Intersectional Education
David identifies that these problems are intersectional, and the intersectionality of Seattle U’s MLS program prepares you to tackle what is really needed in the community. Thanks to this embrace of intersectionality and complexity, there are things that our students do in the MLS program that a JD student does not, and cannot, do upon graduation.

“It’s really important that you build up the types of analytical and critical thinking skills that come from graduate learning,” David says. Approaching delicate, fragile medical problems and unwell people with a risk analysis takes a lot of skill and finesse. He and his team spend time studying the statutory interpretation, talking to actual agency officers, and building relationships all the while understanding that they are involved in a very unique situation that requires creative strategies. “How do we find solutions around the fact that there are complicated issues that don’t have a simple solution?”

What Sets Students Apart
They have to work within their limits, and it’s never a perfect result, but David is proud of the work he does. He’s also proud and happy to work with students, teaching a few classes at SU. Teaching allows him to see how the MLS program dovetails with real-world skills and professional opportunities. The program teaches a methodology of problem-solving that provides the foundation for any work. “Risk is risk. Regulatory issues are regulatory issues. They are all substantive work, but the ability to think, and the ability to solve those problems in a different way than your peers, is what sets you apart.”

Another thing that sets you apart? Ethics. “We learn the processes, the best practices and frameworks. And then the conversations always come back to relationships, culture, building, value orientation. Your values and your culture will drive the ethics of your legal environment.” He also loves that SU’s programs attract students from all over the world, widening the perspectives on compliance beyond just the normalized Western viewpoint. “There’s a worldwide value system and capability set that translates not only across industry, but across culture.”

What Really Matters
David recognizes how intimidating and important this decision might be for prospective students – no one wants to waste their time. Picking the right program is critical. “It really does come down to your value orientation. Because that value oration is going to always be deeper than anything else that we might factor into decision-making. At SU, it’s been a huge joy that there was never a question around what really matters to the school, and what really mattered to us as graduates and practitioners.”

Compliance with a conscious means walking the walk. If you have any questions about the MLS, please feel free to reach out to Kelli Rodgriguez Currie. She would be happy to set up a time to talk one-on-one about anything you need. 

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