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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.”•

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  • 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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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