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Agreement with the Department of Medical Ethics

  1. Overview
    1. The JD/Masters in Bioethics (MBE) is a dual degree program sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. The aim of the dual degree program is to train leaders in the field of public health law and policy.
    2. Students will have the opportunity to earn both degrees in three years (more on the sequencing of these years follows, below).
    3. This program is intended to:
      1. Provide valuable tools for law makers and policy analysts in local, state, national and international arenas.
      2. Expand the range of frameworks applicable to decision making in matters of bioethics and the practice of law.
      3. Stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration in research, policy making, and implementation.


  1. Application Process
    1. Students apply independently to each department through each program’s specified
      admission process. The Law School and the Department of Medical Ethics &
      Health Policy will make independent judgments about each candidate.
      1. While the Law School and the Department will make independent admissions decisions, each application will invite the student to indicate that they have applied, or been admitted, to the other program.
      2. The Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy does not require the GRE or other test as a condition of admission.
    2. Applicants have two options for applying for the dual degree program:
      1. They may make contemporaneous applications to both programs prior to being accepted at either. This option should ONLY be followed by those applicants who would attend the MBE program if accepted into Bioethics but not into Penn Law.
      2. They may apply to the MBE program in February of the first year of the Law program.


  1. Degree Completion Requirements
    1. In order for a student to receive both degrees, he or she must complete the independent degree requirements of each program.
      1. For Law
        1. For the JD class of 2013 and beyond students must complete a minimum of 86 credits, 52 hours of which must be advanced credit completed in the second and third years of Law study. Students in the dual program may apply twelve semester hours (four courses)[1]taken in the MBE program while in their 2L and 3L years of the Law program toward that requirement, reducing their upper level credit requirement to 40 credits. These four courses are the total number of non-Law courses that a Law student can take in other departments of the University for Law credit. Law students enrolled in the MBE program are not eligible to participate in Study Abroad Programs.
          1. Students MUST take a fifth course, but will not receive Law credit for this course and will be charged a fee for this course.
        2. Students must also satisfy the Law School’s pro bono requirement via the Public Service Program and fulfill senior writing and professional responsibility requirements (more on these requirements can be found in the Law Student Guide to Policy and Procedures).
      2. For the MBE program
        1. Students must complete nine course units toward the degree. Of these, students take five
          course units in the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy and four
          course units at the Law School.
        2. The four course units at the Law School are taken from a prescribed list of approved Law School courses, two from the Core JD/MBE course list, and two electives from other pre-approved courses. The core list and list of approved courses are updated annually and attached to this document at Appendix A. View updates of this list.
      3. Combining non-course requirements from both programs
        1. Students may combine the Law School’s senior writing requirement (if at least 1 c.u./3 s.h.) with one of the elective Law courses in the MBE program, which would also count as the MBE’s final project. Students who would like to count the Law Comment or writing requirement must submit a Petition for Action and receive approval from the Director of Education.


  1. Program Sequencing
    1. The dual degree is earned in three years, as follows:
      1. Year 1 spent at the Law School, completing the standard and required 1L curriculum.
      2. The summer between the 1L and 2L year may be necessary for MBE course work or clinical work. This is decided on a case-by-case basis.
      3. Years 2 and 3 spent in residence[2] at the Law School but taking courses in both Law and at the Department.


  1. Tuition and Financial Aid
    1. Students pay Law School tuition in all semesters.
    2. The Law School transfers tuition to the Department for courses taken at the Department toward the completion of the dual degree.
      1. Penn Law students will be charged for any courses taken in the MBE over and above the four courses that are countable toward the JD degree.

      2. The Law School will not be responsible for any tuition or fees incurred for courses taken during the summer months.
    3. Financial aid decisions are made by the Law School alone.
    4. The MBE program does not offer any financial aid.


  1. Scheduling Courses
    1. Students register for courses in one program in that program’s registration period and according to that program’s registration rules and procedures.
    2. Students must be aware of the differences in these procedures:
      1. For the fall semester, the two programs pre-register at different times and using different systems: the MBE course schedule is published and students pre-register in the spring, while the Law course schedule is published and students pre-register in the summer.
      2. Accordingly, students taking courses in both departments in a fall semester will have to pre-register for MBE courses without knowledge of the Law courses being offered. JD/MBE students may email the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy (MBE office) in the Spring to ‘reserve’ a spot for the upcoming semester in a course they are interested in. The student should then contact the MBE office to confirm once the Law schedules are finalized.
      3. Oftentimes, students are able to resolve any issues which arise due to the registration differences during the drop/add period.
    3. The timing and location of course scheduling must also be considered so that students are best able to attend all classes.


  1. Communication Issues
    1. Students with questions about the JD/MBE program can address them to the following persons:
      1. Prospective students with questions about the JD program: Law School Office of Admissions,
      2. Currently enrolled JD/MBE students with questions about Law course selection, scheduling, tuition concerns, etc.: Gary Clinton, Associate Dean for Student Affairs,
      3. Currently enrolled JD/MBE students with questions about financial aid:  Anthony Henry, Director of Financial Aid,
      4. Prospective students with question about the MBE Program: Dr. Lance Wahlert, MBE Program Director,
      5. Currently enrolled JD/MBE students with questions about MBE course selection, scheduling, tuition concerns, etc: Dr. Lance Wahlert, MBE Program Director,
      6. Each year, this document will be reviewed and re-approved by representatives of both departments. Currently, that review will be handled by:
        1. For the Law School: Jo-Ann Verrier, Vice Dean for Administrative Services.
        2. For MBE: Dr. Autumn Fiester, Director of Education,


  1. Issues Particular to the Program
    1. Students in the dual degree program may have particular career interests and goals. They are encouraged to meet individually with a counselor in the Career Planning & Placement Office at the Law School and with the Director of Education in the MBE Program.


Last Update: August 2007


[1] A note on classes and credits: the Law School operates, in order to comply with accreditation standards, on a semester hour basis, while courses in the MBE program are typically worth 1.0 course units (some ½ semester courses may be worth 0.5 course units). In converting between the two programs, a Law course will count as 1.0 course units (or c.u.) in the MBE program, and a 1 c.u. course in MBE will be worth three semester hours at the Law School.

[2] Law accreditation requirements require that JD recipients be “in residence” at the Law School for six semesters.