Health Law Team

Law and Health Care Program

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

No. 1 Health Law Program

What earns a graduate program the nation’s No. 1 ranking by U.S. News and World Report? If it’s the Law and Health Care Program at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, the answer is “everything.”

Director Diane Hoffmann, JD, MS, cites the broad and deep legal expertise of the program’s faculty members ― expertise in areas like health IT and privacy; mental health disability; bioethics; neuroscience; HIV/AIDS; public health; and substance abuse. “Our faculty aren’t just excellent teachers,” says Hoffmann. “They’re also doing groundbreaking and interesting scholarship.”

Lecturer Virginia Rowthorn, JD ’97, the program’s managing director, says this curricular breadth helps students understand more than one or two narrow areas of health law. “They’re entering the field understanding how health law affects different populations. We train students to see health law from a broader perspective so they can really make a difference.”

Hoffmann attributes the program’s success to the broad array of opportunities available to students — research and writing opportunities, service learning experiences, health law clinics and externships. The school’s proximity to such federal agencies as the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; to the U.S. Congress; and to the Maryland General Assembly means high-quality externship placements in agencies and offices where health law is debated and written.

That experience ― in the classroom and in the field ― is highly valued. “Since 2010, when the Affordable Care Act [ACA] came into play, the federal and state governments and private employers have needed professionals with training in health law,” says Hoffmann. “Our students hit the ground running.”

The program’s faculty and students are involved in a number of recent headline-grabbing health law issues: implementing the ACA in Maryland and ensuring adequate access under the law to mental health and substance abuse services; providing legal services to people with HIV in an interprofessional clinic; studying the potential legal ramifications of neuroimaging; and evaluating the regulation of electronic cigarettes.

But students’ experiential learning isn’t confined to the Baltimore‒D.C. corridor. The program has incorporated international experiences, says Rowthorn, who also is deputy director of the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) Center for Global Education Initiatives. Students are taking externships with the World Health Organization in South Africa and with U.N. AIDS in Geneva.

The school’s Law and Health Care Program is growing. Forty-eight students received a Health Law Certificate last year, an all-time high. Rowthorn attributes the growth to new public interest in health care access and equity. “The ACA and the Supreme Court case [testing the act’s constitutionality] really linked health and the law in people’s minds, and they realized that you need to understand the law if you want to improve access and quality.”

Both Hoffmann and Rowthorn think this desire to help individuals directly and tangibly is what drives many of their students to the health law program. “Maryland Carey Law is quite distinctive,” Hoffmann says. “We have a program with a very strong public interest component.”

The public interest is also what motivates many faculty. “Whether it’s expanding access to health care for vulnerable populations, pressing for stronger protections for research subjects, safeguarding health privacy, or offering guidance to the state on public health issues, our faculty are committed to translating theory into practice,” says associate professor Leslie Meltzer Henry, JD, MSc. “This gives our students the opportunity not only to think about the law but to transform it for the greater good.”

The Law and Health Care Program’s national prominence is advanced by a number of unique initiatives. The program sponsors an annual Health Law Regulatory & Compliance Competition. Student teams from schools across the country analyze a health care problem in the context of federal health regulations and agency documents, and present a legal or policy solution to a panel of regulatory and compliance attorneys.

Additionally, Maryland Carey Law publishes the Journal of Health Care Law and Policy, one of few scholarly journals bridging the legal, public policy, and scientific fields. The journal gives students valuable experience in researching, writing, and editing articles on topics like tobacco litigation, access to genetic information, and the legal and regulatory obstacles to vaccine development.

In recent years, the program has hosted a number of hallmark meetings and roundtables, bringing together health care practitioners, medical experts, scientists, and policymakers to examine cutting-edge issues in health policy, law, or ethics. These include the regulation of telemedicine, legal standards for adolescent medical decision-making in light of new brain-development research, state-level implementation of the ACA, the regulation of probiotics, proposed changes to federal rules regarding research with human subjects, and the regulation of medical marijuana. Each roundtable generates a solution-driven outcome: recommendations, a white paper, or a series of articles published in legal, medical, or interdisciplinary journals.

“The courses we teach, the externships we offer, the papers we write, and the events we host touch on every conceivable area of health law,” says Kathleen Hoke, JD ’92, professor and director of the Legal Resource Center for Public Health Policy. “This makes the program a deeply rich offering for our students.”

So what gets credit for the Law and Health Care Program’s No. 1 ranking? Everything.