It’s 5 a.m. and Samuel “Sammy” Chang is prepping for his day. He rereads the printouts on the wall of his dorm-style San Francisco apartment, Rudyard Kipling’s If and Robert J. Hastings’ The Station. Now ready to start the 3 hour and 15 minute journey to Sacramento via BART and Amtrak in his signature glasses, polished brown shoes, and navy suit with the UC Hastings seal pinned on the lapel.
That was February 2017, when Sammy testified as the law student representative in front of the California Assembly Judiciary Committee on the effects of California’s high cut score on low bar passage and the importance of making sure good law students are not barred from practicing the law. He argued in front of the Committee that “[t]here are many good law students in California. There can also be just as many good lawyers,” and was later quoted in a front-page San Francisco Chronicle article, continuing to point out that “[l]awyers are needed for the homeless, for tenant evictions -we don’t have enough of those lawyers.”
It was an immense honor, but seemingly just a typical day in the life of the “Great Facilitator” Sammy Chang, who has traveled this route to Sacramento and many other roads across the country countless times. Whether it was to work at the California Department of Managed Health Care to protect health care coverage and access for Californians or to serve on the national law school accrediting agency (the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar) to protect law students by keeping law schools accountable , Sammy is consistently doing what it takes to provide a path for the voices of those in need to be heard.
Since coming to UC Hastings in 2015, Sammy’s accolades have been impressive. He became the first 1L to be elected as student body president (for which he was the only student to be re-elected); was the only student to win UC Hastings’ “Outstanding Contributions to the Community” Award three years in a row; and was one of the few law students in the nation to receive the American Bar Association Law Student Division’s Star of the Division Award, which recognizes an individual whose service, leadership, commitment, and hard work on behalf of law students across the country has far surpassed expectations and substantially impacted the state of the American Bar Association, Law Student Division. Most recently, the UC Hastings Board of Directors bestowed a plaque to Sammy expressing their “deepest gratitude . . . for his vision, knowledge, and dedicated leadership as the President of the Associated Students of UC Hastings from 2016 to 2018.”
“In my 29 years at UC Hastings, there’s never been a student body president who did half of what Sammy has done, both at the college and at a state and national level,” says Emeritus Academic Dean Evan Lee.
During his time at UC Hastings, Sammy, just to name a few, fought for free feminine hygiene products to be available in all of the college bathrooms; introduced block scheduling to ensure students did not have to choose between Bar preparation courses and practical electives; co-created the revolutionary Green Campus Task Force for staff and students to work together in bettering the school’s environmental footprint; authorized a Tenderloin Community Outreach Board to increase students’ involvement in supporting the often neglected Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco; assisted in bringing a Pro Bono Clinic through the Korean American Bar Association, Northern California; and successfully petitioned for the students’ choice for Chancellor & Dean at UC Hastings.
Additionally, as part of the Public Law and Policy Workgroup at UC Hastings, he wrote white papers for the California Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development, the California Assembly Judiciary Committee, and the California Assembly Committee on Business and Professions on topics ranging from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to how the state could regulate Airbnbs. One of the white papers he helped write ended up being the background paper for the California Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development’s informational hearing. He has recommended model legislation on Hepatitis B birth dosage for the Nebraska Immunization Advisory Committee and has also wrote a monthly blog on the Source on Healthcare Pricing and Competition examining any California bills or hearings relating to health care competition and pricing.
Whatever Sammy has a hand in and whatever those in need ask of him, it gets done. He has a unique and unceasing drive to ensure that the voices of many are advocated for and never silenced. Unfortunately, this passion was ignited from a personal tragedy.
Ten years ago, Sammy’s mother was placed in a medically induced coma and doctors informed his family that the health care plan was running out of funds to maintain her life support of medical equipment and pain medications.
It was Sammy’s responsibility to allow the hospital to remove life support after realizing his mother would not be able to live the life she desired. “I spoke to her for the last time, but she couldn’t even open her eyes to respond. She continued breathing in pain for two days until her heartbeat fell from 120 to 67 to 0,” remembers Sammy. “I was so frustrated because my mother could not speak for herself and there were no patient advocates to defend my family from the politics of health care. It was then that I resolved to actively advance changes to help people like my mother, people who had no voice and were otherwise helpless.”
That is why Sammy continues to wake up early and travel many miles to put himself in the best position to better the lives of those he represents. It is why he tirelessly works on behalf of law students across the country as the inaugural Director of Legal Education for the ABA Law Student Division. And it is why he successfully advocated to increase the supply of birth control available to UC students from 30 days to 120 days in retail pharmacies through his role as Student Caucus Chair on the Executive Oversight Board for the University of California, Student Health Insurance Plan and, once again, took the Amtrak to Sacramento to argue in front of the California Senate Committee on Health and the Senate Committee on Education that the Legislature provide Medicaid premium assistance to help pay college health care premiums for the 21,000 students who cannot pay for UC’s student health insurance.
“In the plainest terms, Sammy Chang is unlike any law student I have ever met,” says Associate Dean Jaime King, Faculty Director of the UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Science, Law and Health Policy. “His passion to serve others is unmatched, and his ability to identify problems and facilitate the change needed to fix them is extraordinary.”