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Doctor or lawyer? Three ASU students are becoming both

 by Brittany McCall
 published on Wednesday, September 26, 2007

<b>LONG ARM OF LAW:</b> Gary Merchant, Law professor and Executive Director for the Center for the Study of Law, Science, and Technology, poses between the bookshelves in the back of his office./issues/news/701958
Morgan Bellinger / THE STATE PRESS
LONG ARM OF LAW: Gary Merchant, Law professor and Executive Director for the Center for the Study of Law, Science, and Technology, poses between the bookshelves in the back of his office.
 

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A post-graduate degree program at ASU that offers students the chance to become a doctor and a lawyer has enrolled a record number of students this year: three.

Since 2005, ASU, in a partnership with the Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., has offered graduate students the chance to work in a joint-degree program, which would award both a law degree and medical doctorate in about six years.

The joint degree program has enrolled five students since its inaugural year in 2005. Gary Marchant, a law professor and Executive Director Center for the Study of Law, Science and Technology at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

"The first year there was one, the next year there was one, and this year there's three," Marchant said. "But you have to realize that a medical class is only 42 students. So to get three out of 42 medical students who want to do a law degree, also, is pretty remarkable."

Marchant said the program is set up so students attend medical school for two years, then attend law school, then go back to medical school for the second half.

Medical school is typically four years, while law school is a separate three years.

Matthew Lahaie, one of the three joint-degree J.D./M.D. students currently studying at the O'Connor College of Law, said he liked that the medical track was split in two.

"The first two years at Mayo are a traditional medical education, they're predominately classroom learning and the final two years are predominately clinical learning," Lahaie said.

Lahaie said the joint degree students take a two-year sabbatical between the classroom and clinical halves of medical school to go work on and complete their law degrees.

"We're here and we go straight through," Lahaie said. "We take the fall semester, we take the winter semester, the spring semester, the summer semester. So we cram three years worth of law school into almost two years."

ASU's partnership with Mayo was a natural fit, Marchant said.

"The Mayo [Clinic] and ASU had a discussion of different ways we could collaborate, both in research and in teaching," Marchant said. "This is a big initiative by both [ASU President Michael Crow] and by the head of the Mayo [Clinic]."

Marchant added that the majority of the Mayo Clinic-ASU collaboration takes place in the form of mutual research, but when Mayo was approached with the idea of a J.D./M.D. joint degree program, they jumped at the chance.

"They liked the fact that we have a very strong focus on law in science and law in genetics and law in medicine here," Marchant said.

Lahaie said the College of Law's focus on medical and science law was a major benefit in his decision to attend ASU.

"ASU has the Center for [the Study of] Law, Science and Technology which has a lot of coursework and a lot of faculty who specialize in some areas of healthcare technology, personalized medicine and things like that," Lahaie said. "The things that are most relevant to [the joint degree students] in our careers."

Lahaie added that he was glad to find out how relevant the law coursework has been to his medical degree so far.

"It's amazing in the first month of class how many cases have been about medical lawsuits or contracts in the medicine route," Lahaie said. "And after a few weeks, you're like, 'Wow, I'm really glad I'm doing this because they don't teach you about this stuff in medical school'."

Reach the reporter at brittany.mccall@asu.edu



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