Since her first year in law school, Sheila Heitzig has been working to help women.
As a first-year student at Marquette University Law School, Heitzig helped reform a flailing association for female law students and establish it as a successful venue for students to seek mentoring from professionals.
“I had fantastic mentors at the law school, but I was also looking at, ‘What’s this going to look like after I graduate?’” she said. “We made contact with the Association for Women Lawyers. They were completely welcoming to us, and invited us to participate in their mentoring program.”
Heitzig went on to serve seven years on AWL’s board of directors, holding such positions as director of professionalism, director of membership, secretary and president. In her time as president, she created a nonprofit law discussion group and helped develop the AWL Founders Award to help honor exceptional members.
She continues to be a member of the organization and serves as a discussion group leader. The work the group does is important, she said, because “it can still be more complicated for a woman to establish herself in the legal field — whether in the courthouse, the law firm or the legal community — based on the fact they are women.”
Now Heitzig is serving women in a different way, through her work at Executive Director Inc., where she serves as director of practice and policy for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
The academy, working with other partners, has established the Vaccines and Medicines in Pregnancy Surveillance System to study the effects of medications on unborn babies and their moms.
“We know there are medicines and vaccines out there that may be helpful,” said VAMPSS founder Dr. Michael Schatz, “but women are reluctant to take them because there isn’t enough safety information available.”
Heitzig’s legal background has been helpful, Schatz said, in launching VAMPSS.
She continues to exericse her legal chops as a solo practioner, as well, working mostly with nonprofit clients.
And her influence lives on with AWL, where a mentoring event Heitzig helped expand as a young law student now is a thriving series at which 40 AWL members serve as mentors to rotating groups of law students.