Law school unveiling joint JD/MD degree

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Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis and the IU School of Medicine have partnered to create the first joint JD/MD degree program in the state. Educators are fine-tuning the details of the program and plan to begin promoting it soon.

“We’re hoping to roll out the marketing of it in the fall of 2011,” said Priscilla Keith, adjunct professor at the law school and director of research and projects for the William S. and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health.

Keith said that she and Eleanor Kinney, Hall Render Professor of Law and co-director of the Hall Center, conducted most of the research for the new degree program. Part of their research involved looking at other JD/MD programs around the country. As of spring 2010, the American Association of Medical Colleges showed 24 schools offering a JD/MD degree.

keith-priscilla-mug.jpg Keith

“We looked at notably the ones surrounding us,” Keith said. “The University of Illinois (Urbana) – we looked at the Mayo Medical School, and we definitely looked at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, and the University of Minnesota.”

IU’s six-year JD/MD program will offer students two degree tracks, beginning with either law school or medical school. Most JD/MD programs do not offer that kind of flexibility. IU’s program may also be more appealing to students who want to be able to attend law and medical school in the same city.

kinney-eleanor-mug.jpg Kinney

Students pursuing a JD/MD degree through Southern Illinois University are required to attend law school in Carbondale before moving 168 miles away to Springfield to complete their medical education. The joint JD/MD degree through Mayo Medical School in Minnesota is made possible through a partnership with the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Students study medicine for two years at Mayo before moving to Arizona to study law. In creating IU’s program, Kinney said the university tried to accommodate its non-traditional students.

“That’s in keeping with how we want education to be at IUPUI,” Kinney said. “We have a campus that caters to people who live in Indianapolis and Central Indiana and are likely to be working – our students are pretty businesslike – so we want to offer those students the maximum flexibility that we can.”

Practical applications

David Orentlicher, Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law and co-director of the Hall Center, has JD and MD degrees from Harvard University. He completed his medical degree before deciding to attend law school.

“In my case, I had been unsure about whether to pursue a career in medicine or law; I was interested in both,” he said. “I started with medicine, thinking that would be the better choice.”

orentlicher-dave-mug.jpg Orentlicher

He said a career itself is secondary to whether that career is a good fit for someone’s personality.

“Working through legal problems is something that fit me better than dealing with medical problems,” he said. So he decided to pursue his law degree.

“Having a medical degree helps tremendously in my work, because as I deal with issues in medicine and law, having practiced medicine and gone to medical and law school gives me insights that I wouldn’t have.”

Orentlicher, who was the director of the American Medical Association’s Division of Medical Ethics, combines his background in law and medicinemdjd-factbox to write about some of the most hotly debated medical ethics topics of today.

Kinney, who earned her JD from Duke University and her Masters of Public Health from the University of North Carolina, said that increasingly, lawyers are choosing to pursue a secondary advanced degree that demonstrates their expertise in a certain discipline.

“In health care, it’s particularly important because the healthcare system is so complex,” Kinney said. “Lawyers often need to know a lot about the industries in which they practice.”

For serious students only

Summer sessions are a must for anyone who intends to pursue the JD/MD degree.

“You really can’t do it in six years unless you go through the summers,” Keith said. “It takes a special student to say that I’m going do both the MD and JD program and try to complete it in six years.”

A student enrolled in the combined program must complete the 90 credit hours required for the JD degree; at least 84 of those credit hours must be obtained in classes offered by the law school. Up to six credit hours toward the JD degree may be obtained from appropriate courses offered by the medical school, but Keith and Kinney recommend students work closely with advisers to ensure they’re choosing courses that would count toward both degrees.

In the 2011-2012 school year, the in-state student cost per credit hour for law school is $694.10, plus a $600 fee per academic year. A first-year, in-state medical student currently can expect to pay about $31,400 per academic year. Total tuition for the six-year JD/MD degree would be approximately $200,000, and it could be higher or lower, depending on the cost of books, whether classes can be applied toward both degrees, and whether tuition rates increase.

Given the cost and time commitment, educators understand that the new program may not bring in hundreds of new students; that wasn’t the goal in creating the joint degree.

“What history tells us is that not many students avail themselves of this option,” Kinney said. “We just felt this would round out our interdisciplinary offerings that we offer an array of students.”•


  • what???
    This degree is a solution in search of a problem. Very hard to understand but surely there are some people wanting to defer the day of doom on student loans who will take up on it.

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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.