UW-Madison to offer dual law and public health degree

April 26, 2012

by Käri Knutson

The University of Wisconsin-Madison will offer a dual degree, a combined juris doctor and master of public health, starting this fall.

The dual degree, a cooperative effort between the Law School and the School of Medicine and Public Health, will offer students substantive training in both law and public health.

"This program will enable students interested in the intersection of law and health care to prepare themselves to address a complex and growing field," says Margaret Raymond, dean of the Law School. "It also allows us to leverage the university; this dual degree calls upon the extraordinary resources of UW-Madison to help our students build unique portfolios equipping them to solve some of our society's most pressing concerns."

Law and public health have a fundamental link; many public health initiatives depend on law, and legal policy in turn affects public health.

"It really is about the integration of both sets of knowledge and builds upon our law in action philosophy," says Sarah Davis, co-director of the JD-MPH Dual Degree Program. "This program offers the critical skill sets future public health law professionals need."

Only a few schools nationwide offer such a dual degree program. Past graduates who have completed both JD and MPH programs on their own have had prestigious internships as students and gone on to find jobs that combine their interest in law and health.

"Students are really excited," says Barbara Duerst, associate director for MPH at UW-Madison. "A lot of them have a great desire to make a change in the health care system. This really gives them a leg up."

Law has played a critical role in many of the past century's health achievements including vaccination, motor-vehicle safety, safer workplaces, control of infectious diseases, decline in deaths from chronic heart disease and stroke, safer and healthier foods, healthier mothers and babies, family planning, fluoridation of drinking water and recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard.