April 1, 2009
ATLANTA – The highly regarded Health Law program at Georgia State University College of Law ranked 6th in the country in the latest rankings published in U.S. News Media Group’s 2010 edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools, tied with Georgetown University and Seton Hall University.
"The rankings reflect the extraordinarily high caliber of our faculty, fellows, students, and academic professionals," said Professor Charity Scott, director of the Center for Law, Health & Society. "Our health law program benefits tremendously from being part of a vibrant young law school and a great urban research University which together genuinely promote strong engagement with our community as well as innovative interdisciplinary research and education."
The Center for Law, Health & Society has become a hub of health law activity, attracting faculty from across the nation and holding conferences on cutting-edge issues like stem cell research and conscientious objection in health care. Students can enroll in an array of courses that examine the role of law in society’s health.
This marks the third year in a row U.S. News & World Report has ranked the health law program in the top 10. Scott gives credit for this success to the high quality of faculty, professional staff, and students in the program.
The Center also benefits from the law school’s location in Atlanta, which is at the crossroads of regional and national government health agencies, leading universities, and a rapidly developing business community in the non-profit and for-profit sectors of health care and biotechnology. The Center has built partnerships with many of these institutions across Atlanta, which has fostered its reputation locally as well.
"We’re trying to change the traditional image of doctors and lawyers as adversaries," Scott observes. "We’re allies and partners with health professionals."
The Center reaches out to all health-related disciplines - for example, medicine, nursing, social work, public health, health administration, and health policy - to see how they can work together with lawyers to understand the role that law should play in promoting society’s health.
The Center’s interdisciplinary mission is reflected in its educational curriculum, research initiatives, community outreach, and conferences and public programs. "The Center’s initiatives prepare students to address the many critical health challenges that face society in the 21st century," said associate director of the Center, Jerri Nims Rooker, who joined the health law program in its first year of operation. Many of the nearly 20 health law courses now can be taken by graduate students in other disciplines across campus. Professor Roberta Berry’s course on biotechnology law enrolls law students and graduate science and engineering students from Georgia Tech.
Research grants also extend across disciplines. Professors Paul Lombardo and Leslie Wolf have joined with public health faculty from Emory University on a NIH-funded grant to study emergency preparedness. Scott and Sylvia Caley, a clinical faculty member at the law school, were recently awarded a grant from the Georgia Department of Community Health and will work with faculty from the Institute of Health Administration in the Robinson College of Business to study health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities.
One ambitious project to unite the work of hospital professionals and lawyers is the Health Law Partnership (HeLP), an innovative community collaboration among the Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. HeLP serves low-income families whose children are patients at one of Children’s three hospitals in Atlanta.
"Often sick children need more than health care to get them well," said Caley, who is HeLP’s overall Director. "We’re there to address the social and economic problems that poor families face which threaten their children’s health." HeLP serves families at Children’s whose income is less than 200% of the federal poverty line, and has legal services offices on all three Children’s hospital campuses.
HeLP’s educational component is supported by the HeLP Legal Services Clinic, which is an in-house clinic at the law school that offers students the opportunity to take client cases referred by HeLP. Lisa Bliss is a clinical faculty member with the clinic, and she and Caley are co-Associate Directors overseeing the clinic’s operations.
"We’re giving students a hands-on education in how to be a lawyer," said Bliss. "This experience may be the first time students have ever served clients, and we provide a supportive learning environment for them to develop their lawyering skills."
The Center also encourages law students to engage in community service through projects such as a mentorship program for law students to mentor inner-city high school students who are studying health sciences. "This is just one more way that the Center bridges the law school with its community," said Nims Rooker, "and collaborates with partners from across the many disciplines that promote society’s health."
U.S. News ranked the part-time program at Georgia State University College of Law No. 15 in the country, and the law school moved into the 65th position overall – up from its 77th position last year.
"The latest rankings from U.S. News confirm what we already know, and that is the law school continues to make terrific progress in delivering a great legal education to our students at Georgia State Law,” said Dean Steven J. Kaminshine. “I’m particularly proud of our part-time program, which has long been recognized as a tremendous program in the Atlanta community. The Center for Law, Health & Society, under the direction of Charity Scott, has made great strides in a relatively short time to become one of the top health law programs in the country, and we are pleased to see it receive such well-deserved recognition."
The U.S. News rankings are available online and featured in the May U.S. News & World Report magazine, on newsstands April 28, 2009.