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Penn Law to offer new master’s degree for health, medical professionals

February 17, 2014

With ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act impacting decision-making and service delivery in medicine as never before, the University of Pennsylvania Law School will launch a new master’s degree program to provide physicians and other medical professionals with in-depth knowledge of health law and legal principles. The Master’s in Law and Health is part of a new Law School initiative to provide innovative legal training to diverse professionals whose fields are being shaped by increasingly complex regulatory frameworks.

The Master’s in Law and Health, which will be offered to medical students, Ph.D. students, post-doctoral researchers, residents in the Penn Health system, and graduate students in other health-related areas, will enroll its first students in the 2014-15 academic year.

Graduates of the program will develop legal knowledge and key analytical and critical thinking skills that will prepare them for careers as leaders of health practices and medical institutions.

“Health law is one of the Law School’s areas of great strength, and we are delighted to be able to open our doors to the wider Penn community,” said Penn Law Dean Michael A. Fitts. “The Master’s in Law and Health is designed to satisfy a desire on the part of many health practitioners to deepen their understanding of how health reform is impacting utilization of medical services and driving profound changes in their profession.”

Dr. Gail Morrison, Senior Vice Dean for Education at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, added, “Whether students are aiming to be clinicians, researchers, department heads or hospital chiefs, those with in-depth legal training will see real advantage as they progress in their careers.  Understanding how law establishes parameters for the delivery of health care enables doctors to shape and participate in the debates and inform the decisions that set those parameters in the first place.”

The one-year program may be completed on a full or part-time basis. The curriculum grounds students first with a foundation in law and legal analysis and then allows them to develop deeply specialized knowledge through electives in health and related areas of law.

The four foundation courses - Introduction to U.S. Law and Legal Methods, Introduction to General Business Law, Regulatory Law, and Introduction to Health Law – provide a comprehensive introduction to fundamental aspects of law including basics such as jurisdiction and sources of law, corporate entities, and the role and function of administrative agencies as well as an introductory course grounding students in key concepts in health law.

Upon completing the foundation courses, students will select four courses from the Law School’s upper level curriculum. In these courses, they will interact with Penn Law JD students, allowing them to better understand how lawyers approach issues and questions related to health. Upper level electives may include:

•       Drug Product Liability Litigation

•       Regulation of Health Insurance Markets

•       Pharmaceutical Regulation and Enforcement

•       Public Health Law & Policy

•       Mental Health Law

•       F.D.A. Law

•       Intellectual Property and Patent Law

•       Privacy Law

Professor Theodore Ruger, a health law expert and one of the architects of the new Master’s program said, “Few areas today are more heavily regulated than the health care field, and our Master’s program will give students a solid understanding of the major legal issues faced by physicians and other health care providers.”

Law and Wharton Professor Michael Knoll, who serves as academic director for the new degree, commented, “Many kinds of professionals – whether in medicine, business, technology or other areas – need to understand the ways that law, business, and policy intersect. A Master’s in Law will help young professionals anticipate and respond to challenges that their organizations are certain to face over the years. ”

Penn Law will offer an optional five-week summer program for students entering the Master’s program. During the summer program, students will complete the Introduction to U.S. Law and Legal Methods class and participate in a practicum series exposing them to professionals and institutions that are most engaged with law and health matters. Practicum lecturers will include medical and legal professionals from the Department of Health and Human Services, the F.D.A., Congress, private insurers, pharmaceutical and medical device makers, health law related firms, judges, and health advocacy organizations.  

The summer curriculum is designed to provide students with first-hand understanding of the ways in which medical professionals encounter and experience law in their work.  The summer program will run from July 7 through August 8, 2014.

For additional application information, please visit Penn Law’s website, or contact Catharine Restrepo, Coordinator, Master’s in Law Program at masters@law.upenn.edu.

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