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The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine was ranked fourth in the nation this year by U.S. News & World Report. Although there is no formal M.D./J.D. degree program at Penn, if a student applies to Penn School of Medicine and to the Law School and is accepted to both programs, the medical and law schools will work together with that student to develop an integrated program. Through these efforts it may be possible to complete both degrees in a total of six years rather than seven.
One student who has undertaken this option is Aaron Kesselheim. In his pursuit he has been a pioneer in navigating the terrain and setting a path for future J.D./M.D. matriculants. After two years in the classroom at the School of Medicine, in 1998 he entered the Law School to begin his legal education.
“When I was an undergraduate, I studied the history of science and learned how science and medicine are affected by the laws of society. A doctor-patient relationship is affected by more factors than just science. The way doctors practice medicine is influenced by laws. By entering law school, I wanted to gain a sophistication of how laws have impacted the practice of medicine.”
One course that he recalls with enthusiasm was “Biotechnology and the Law,” taught by Colin S. Diver and Edward L. Rubin. “That was a great class. It was exactly what I was interested in finding out about – the intersection of law, ethics, medical practice, court cases and medical research methods. It was a very synergistic class that combined the fields.”
Kesselheim was on rotation at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania this summer. He will complete his law degree in 2002, one year after his classmates, but close to the finish line of his joint degree experience at Penn. I always say that the degree was a good fit for me because, in the end, most of the questions discussed in bioethics are eventually determined in a courtroom.
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