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Combating Human Trafficking The Roles of the Legal and Medical Professions


Slavery still exists today in the form of forced labor and forced sexual exploitation collectively referred to as human trafficking. There are an estimated 24.9 million victims in modern slavery according to a 2017 report from the International Labor Organization. Combating human trafficking takes collaboration across industry and profession.

The Borders, Trade, and Immigration Institute, a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, hosted a lunch-and-learn focusing on the roles and responsibilities of the legal and medical professions in combating human trafficking at the University of Houston on January 31, 2019.

Panelists included Alfonso Lopez de la Osa Escribano, PhD, director of the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law at the University of Houston Law Center; Juhi Jain, M.D., fellow with Emory University Children’s Healthcare Hospital; Edward Gallagher, J.D., adjunct professor at UH Law Center; and Sherri Lynn Zack, J.D., Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of Texas & Chief of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance. 

“There is no State that does not have a human trafficking problem,” said Jain. “This affects every single one of us, all of our communities, all of our cities here in the United States.”

Dr. Escribano detailed the current law regulating the medical profession and the challenge of the balance between protecting the health information of their patient and the mandate to report trafficking victims. His presentation can be found here.

Dr. Jain discussed the degree of physical and mental health issues that human trafficking may suffer and the role of the medical profession in identifying red flags that point to human trafficking. Dr. Jain is focusing on creating a trauma-informed multi-disciplinary collaborative healthcare model for survivors. Her presentation can be found here.

Gallagher discussed the evolution of the law from the abolition of slavery to modern-day State and Federal criminal law that deals specifically with human trafficking.

 “It is a civil rights and organized crime problem,” said Gallagher. To create an effective task force it takes multiple organizations with different views.  

Zack discussed the vast amount of underreporting associated with human trafficking.

“The huge problem is victims identifying as victims because they don’t,” said Zack. “Most of the time they do not identify as victims because of the trauma bonds they form with their captors.”

There are still a wide array of issues left to be addressed due to the evolving nature of human trafficking and the prevalence of online recruitment.

There are a number of resources available for more information about human trafficking. This is not an exhaustive list and does not imply endorsement.



Dr. Juhi Jain (left), Edward Gallagher, Sherri Zack, and Dr. Alfonso Lopez de la Osa Escribano discuss the roles of the legal and medical professions in combating human trafficking during a lunch-and-learn hosted by the Borders, Trade, and Immigration Institute at the University of Houston January 31, 2019. 

Guest Speaker Biographies:

Juhi Jain, MD Fellow Emory/Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

Juhi Jain, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician who graduated from Baylor College of Medicine’s Pediatric Residency Program and is currently pursuing her pediatric hematology-oncology fellowship at Emory/Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Biochemistry and Anthropology with a minor in dance and medical school from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in 2015. She is an avid advocate for anti-human trafficking work since medical school. In Houston she was a member and the anti-human trafficking committee chair of Doctors for Change, a non-profit organization focused on building a healthier Houston through advocacy, for 3 years. She founded THRIVE clinic in Miami for survivors of human trafficking and worked with Doctors for Change, Ben Taub, CHI St. Lukes, San Jose Clinic and the Mayor’s office in Houston to build a collaborative, citywide model for multidisciplinary trauma-informed healthcare and victim services for human trafficking survivors in Houston. She has been awarded the Adrienne Arsht Research in Ethics grant, planned multiple symposiums and conferences, and given numerous lectures including grand rounds to students, residents and physicians on human trafficking and the role of the medical professional.

Edward Gallagher, JD Adjunct Professor University of Houston Law Center
Edward Gallagher has been a federal prosecutor for 28 years and is currently assigned to the Narcotics Enforcement Section of the Criminal Division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas. Before transferring to the drug section in May 2016, Gallagher spent over fourteen years overseeing the Major Offender’s Section with prosecutors assigned to the Immigration Crimes unit, the organized crime strike force and gang unit, and the civil rights/human trafficking unit. Gallagher spent over twenty years as the district’s coordinator for organized crime and international affairs. 
Alfonso Lopez de la Osa Escribano, PhD, LLM, JD Director Center for U.S. and Mexican Law
Alfonso López de la Osa Escribano is Director of the Center of U.S. and Mexican Law at the University of Houston Law Center, and Adjunct Faculty on “Comparative Health Law” of the Health Law and Policy Institute in this same university. He obtained his PhD. in Public Health Law at the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, where he studied a degree (DEA Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies) on Droit public comparé des Etats Européens (1997). He earned his Law Degree (1995) and Master’s degree in European Union Law (1996) at the University Complutense of Madrid in Spain. 

López de la Osa Escribano has taught as Professor of Administrative Law at the University Complutense of Madrid Law School, and at the University of Pau et des Pays de l’Adour (UPPA) in France. He has taught “Biotechnology and Law” at the Instituto de Empresa Business School in Spain. He is a lawyer in Madrid Bar having done litigation before civil, criminal and administrative jurisdictions, and an associate member of several academic research centers, like the Institut d’etudes lberiques et iberico-americaines and the Centre Pau Droit Public at the UPPA in France. 

López de la Osa Escribano’s research focuses on international and comparative law issues and how legal systems interact, especially between the US and Mexico, and in European Union Law. Also, in terms of Health Law, he specializes in doctor-patient legal relationship and medical risk management related to Medical Malpractice Professional Insurance Law, as well as Biotechnology and Life Sciences Law. He has written several works in the field of Public Law and Health law in France and Spain. His research also centers on fundamental rights and their enforcement to protect a major right to healthcare access.


Sherri Lynn Zack, JD Human Trafficking Coordinator Southern District of Texas
A criminal prosecutor with over 20 years of federal and state experience specializing in cases involving the sexual exploitation of children and sex trafficking. Currently the Human Trafficking Coordinator for the Southern District of Texas responsible for coordinating investigations and prosecutions with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Deputy Chief of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance, a multi-agency task force working with law enforcement and non-governmental organizations to combat both international and domestic sex trafficking. Accomplished trial attorney and oral advocate dedicated to seeking justice. A published writer, a frequent speaker on the subjects of online child exploitation, domestic minor sex trafficking, animal crush prosecutions.