law school

Emory University School of Law announced last week that it will be expanding its Juris Master (JM) program to include a concentration in global health for the coming fall.

According to an April 9 University press release, the program is designed for global health professionals who seek a clearer understanding of the international laws and regulations in the field and how they intersect with numerous disciplines. The concentration was developed in collaboration with the Emory Global Health Institute.

The JM program was introduced in 2012. The JM differs from the traditional Juris Doctor (JD) degree, which requires three years of study to become an attorney. A JM degree allows professionals who are often not lawyers to learn more about the regulation in their particular field. The degree is earned after the student completes a number of hours designated by the program.

Robert Schapiro, Asa Griggs Candler professor of law and dean of the School of Law, said the concentration seeks to accomplish numerous intended goals for the law school.

“Our JM program is focused on working professionals who are not lawyers but understand the value of law to what they do,” Schapiro said. “So it seemed that the JM program would be a perfect way to connect with our health law focus and try to expand the reach of our education to a broad group of people who would benefit from education and health law.”

CARE, a humanitarian nonprofit agency, the Carter Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and several other Emory schools and organizations worked together in order to establish the concentration. There will be five fields of study within the program: research, sustainable development, organizational administration, health care delivery and policy.

According to Robert Ahdieh, the School of Law’s vice dean, the concentration derived from a series of discussions with representatives of the different health organizations all over campus.

“It was truly a model of collective deliberation and decision-making,” Ahdieh said.

According to Schapiro, the tremendous strengths Emory already exhibits in the health areas make this program especially important and logical to pursue.

“When you think of what are the great public health concerns of the world, many of them wind up being legal concerns,” Schapiro said. “What is a proper regulatory framework? What sorts of roles should the government play? How can you manage the kinds of institutions that provide health?”

The students are required to take two foundational classes: an introduction to the basic elements of U.S. law and case method. Then, the students may choose to take four recommended core courses and elective courses depending upon their interest.

Ahdieh said he expects the already robust intersection between international law and health issues will grow further with the Global Health JM. Furthermore, he said the law school is looking at potential field experiences to further enrich the program and offer valuable experience for students.

“I am so excited about this program because it connects several strategic initiatives for the law school,” Schapiro said.

Patricia Olinger, a JM student and director for the Environmental Health and Safety Office, said she is enthusiastic about the expansion because her work in the nonprofit field as well as her job at Emory make her passionate about the new program.

“I love being able to understand how things work in other countries,” Olinger said. “It better helps me understand what we have here in the United States.”

Schapiro stated that the principal issues in global health come down to organization and ineffective delivery systems.

“In many countries, the greatest public health threat in the world today is lack of law, lack of a stable political system that can deliver health care to populations that need it,” Schapiro said.

He cited modern-day famine as an example of a health care issue that results primarily from a lack of law, not a lack of food.

Olinger said the growth of globalization adds to the importance of combining law and global health.

“When you start to look at the aspects, some of the things that are involved in countries, the fundamental issues come down to legal issues,” Olinger said. “What’s a law in the United States may not be a law in other countries.”

The global health concentration will help many students with their particular knowledge base, according to Kalpana Rengarajan, a JM student and biosafety director for Emory. Rengarajan said she wished the program had been offered when she began her JM studies.

“It is very important for the implementation for any of these policies to have an understanding of global health laws with observations in other countries,” Rengarajan said.

The JM program’s success, according to Schapiro, is one of the factors that influenced the decision to invoke the concentration for this fall. Schapiro stated that this conclusion was based off of two factors: the reports from students who claim to be happy with the program and the ongoing conversations with other health areas around the University all coming together.

There is a hope that the global health concentration will enhance the law school in other ways as well, according to Schapiro.

He stated that while the program is intended to go beyond those students who come for three years to get their JD and become practicing lawyers (the core of the law school), he hopes these students will benefit through the growing diversity of the student body.

“Bringing in people who are interested in global health law will certainly help to enrich their educational experiences,” Schapiro said. “Having a diverse group of students in the law school will contribute to the education of all of our students.”​

– By Wendy Becker