Health care law top of UDM law student's mind


By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

An AP psychology course Nick Prys took as a high school student at Detroit Country Day School sparked his interest in that field—and he went on to earn his undergrad degree in psychology at Duke University.

“I’ve long been interested in human behavior,” he says. “Additionally, I’m passionate about de-stigmatizing mental illness and substance use disorders and believe my background in psychology has prepared me to be a knowledgeable advocate for such health challenges.

“My background in psychology has also helped me hone my interpersonal skills which will serve me well when faced with counseling clients through a legal crisis.”

The son of Ukrainian immigrants, Prys minored in Russian language.

“My first language was Ukrainian, and I speak it fluently,” he says. “That said, many Ukrainians—my family included—speak Russian.”

After graduating from Duke, where he played varsity soccer for four years, he spent a year as a Challenge Detroit fellow (a one-year leadership and professional development fellowship), with Southwest Solutions, a community mental health agency based in southwest Detroit.

After the fellowship concluded, he worked for a year as a qualified mental health professional at an inpatient psychiatric hospital on Detroit’s east side – an experience that differed significantly from his undergrad psychology textbooks.

“I confronted real-world quandaries like how to effectively counsel an actively psychotic patient petitioned to go before a judge for a competency hearing,” he says.

He helped homeless veterans secure transitional housing, coordinated care for people struggling with serious mental illness, developed a health disparities curriculum for Oakland University medical students, and secured funding to build a home wheel-chair ramp for a 12-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant child living with cerebral palsy.

One project of particular poignancy was installing public futsal-soccer courts in southwest Detroit for low-income youth.

“Just as soccer had afforded me an exit ramp to a world of unimagined possibilities, I hoped to provide something similar for the southwest Detroit neighborhood kids coming up just a few years behind me,” he says.

His fellowship experience showed him that many vulnerable populations lack access to quality behavioral health care services, which sparked his interest in a career path focused on improving such access and influenced his decision to enroll as a social work graduate student at Wayne State University.

When Prys started his career as a clinical social worker, he quickly realized he could influence greater systemic change by counseling providers, insurers, government entities, and investors assisting those who suffer from behavioral health disorders.

Considering a career as an attorney, Prys reached out to Gregory Moore, chair of Dickinson Wright’s Behavioral Health Care Practice Group, to learn more about his practice area. The two met over coffee, and Moore reaffirmed Prys’s decision to apply to law school. It was also clear Prys needed practical consulting experience to better understand the business of health care.

“I readily took Greg’s advice and joined the Center for Behavioral Health at Altarum, a health care research and management consulting firm,” he says. “After two years at Altarum, Greg recruited me to step into a leadership role at Avant, a boutique health care management consulting firm he started as an adjunct to his legal work.

“I wouldn’t be in law school if it wasn’t for Greg Moore’s guidance and support. He’s been an invaluable mentor to me, and I can’t thank him enough.”

Now a 1L student at Detroit Mercy Law, with a particular interest in becoming a transactional health care attorney, Prys appreciates the supportive school environment.

“All of the faculty and staff I’ve interacted with seem to truly care about their students and want to ensure we succeed, and oftentimes go above and beyond in doing so,” he says.

Prys is grateful to have been selected as a Dean’s Fellow.

“It’s certainly helped alleviate my initial hesitation in applying to law school—the financial cost,” he says.

When not busy with law school or work, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, and playing soccer in the Detroit City FC bar league.

“Unquestionably, the demands associated with playing Division 1 men’s college soccer while also performing academically has helped me develop perseverance and discipline,” he says.

Born in Toronto and raised in southwest Detroit and Warren, Prys now lives in the Rivertown-Warehouse District in Detroit, with his wife Anita. Prys says what he enjoys most about the city he calls home is “the resiliency of the people who live here and the energy around Detroit’s resurgence.”


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