Master in Law Report: At the Intersection of Medicine and Law

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Anesthesiologist Ronald Litman GL’18, an early enrollee in the Master in Law program, emerged as an advocate for the regulation of anesthetic medications.





Vice Dean for Inclusion & Diversity, Perelman School of Medicine

Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and CHOP

Associate Professor and Director, Genetic and Epigenetic Origins of Disease Program, Cardiovascular Institute, Perelman School of Medicine



Penn Law’s Master in Law (ML) program offers accomplished professionals and talented students the opportunity to immerse themselves in learning the law and legal processes that impact their work and day-to-day lives. ML students are leaders who want to develop policy and drive change in their fields, all while creating opportunity for themselves and those around them. The ML program makes that possible, giving you the multi-disciplinary knowledge to feed your intellectual curiosity and enhance your career.




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Catharine Restrepo Executive Director, Master in Law Program 215.898.4083


Years of professional experience at time of application

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20+ year

Natalie D. Green Assistant Director, Master in Law Program 215.746.1877 Master in Law Program Penn Law Registrar

Law for on-Lawy rs Kendrick Davis GEN’14, GL’17, GR’18 H A D P U R C H A S E D

the LSAT book. He’d just finished his master’s degree in engineering and was going full steam ahead in preparation for his law school applications. Law school, he said, had always been on his radar. Then Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration created a position, through a STEM mentoring competition (US2020) launched at the 2013 White House Science Fair, to formulate a plan to increase STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in Philadelphia. The initiatives would focus on traditionally underrepresented students, and they wanted Davis for the job. “I really wasn’t interested at first,” Davis said. “But then I reconsidered. This is an opportunity that doesn’t just come around, and I could always go to law school.” After working on strategies and launching, an online STEM resource center, Davis entered Penn’s Ph.D. program for higher education and again contemplated law school. That’s when he heard about Penn Law’s new Master in Law degree. “The more I thought about it, I liked it,”

By Lindsay Podraza

Davis said. “I wasn’t going to leave and start practicing law, so I wouldn’t necessarily need a JD.” The Master in Law (ML) degree is specially designed for professionals who want to expand their legal knowledge without becoming a lawyer. “It makes you a more complete professional by informing what you do with an understanding of the law that impacts your work,” said Catharine Restrepo L’93, the executive director of Penn Law’s Master in Law program. That was certainly the case for Jenn Kistama GL’17, GNU’17, who was most recently a clinical project manager for the Weill–Cornell Medical Center at New York Presbyterian Hospital. She will soon start a new position as quality manager at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Like Davis, Kistama had pictured herself going to law school someday, but her real passion led her to healthcare. While working full-time as a neonatal intensive care nurse, she earned her master’s in nursing at Penn, with a specialty in healthcare administration, and dove into the new Master in Law program, combining the two master’s degrees.

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The Master in Law program provides an in-depth course of study to graduate students from a wide range of disciplines and professionals from every corner of campus — who use this legal knowledge to inform their studies and their work, ultimately shaping their careers and their lives.

the program in fall 2014, there have been 32 graduates, including 17 this past year. “The Master in Law program is part of our core philosophy that not only is the law interconnected with many other fields and disciplines, but is also a reflection of our belief that the study of law is for everyone,” said Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger, one of the original architects of the program. “Our ML candidates reflect this — they are an incredibly diverse and accomplished group of professionals who will emerge from the program with vital legal knowledge that will help them in their jobs and careers and will benefit society.”


program was to create a dual master’s degree for medical students at Penn to better prepare them for careers in the increasingly complex field of healthcare. But, Restrepo said, it became clear as the Law School developed the curriculum and the overall program that it could serve a much wider range of academics and professionals, benefiting Penn Law in the process by introducing experienced and informed voices to our law school classrooms and community. Indeed, ML alumni and current students have come to the program from an incredibly diverse and sophisticated set of academic and professional backgrounds, according to Restrepo. These include graduate students from master’s to doctoral candidates and lettered professionals in fields such as healthcare, technology, business and finance, education, social work and public policy. Since the program uses rolling admissions, the composition of the students in the program fluctuates. At present, most of the ML students work or study in the health-related fields of medicine, research, healthcare leadership and privacy but also include a range of Penn faculty, engineers, compliance, audit and privacy analysts, grants professionals, administrators and financial analysts. Many candidates enter the program possessing advanced degrees or having taken significant graduate coursework in their fields. What unites all of them is their desire to learn how the law informs their work, whether they’re reviewing contracts, treating patients, or, in the case of Pam Beatrice GR’97, G’11, G’14, GL’18, working with patents and commercializing Penn’s groundbreaking research and innovation. In her role as director of the Engineering, Physical and Applied Sciences Licensing at Penn Center for Innovation, Beatrice secures and markets patents for Penn. With a Ph.D. in material science and engineering, Beatrice began exploring the law several years ago, taking a class on intellectual property taught by Penn Law professor David Abrams, and then another one


As the executive director of the Master in Law program, Catharine Restrepo L’93 leads the effort to educate professionals, academics and graduate students in the principles of law in their respective fields.

“I tell people all the time now that I don’t know how it happened, but I really found the perfect degree pairing for what I wanted to do,” she said. While she loved her work as a nurse, she also found herself questioning why things were done the way they were and if those were the best possible practices. “I wanted to go into administration because I always wanted to be a change agent and … make the healthcare system in this country better,” she said. Kistama served as a program manager for the Oncology Care Model, a federal alternative payment model that looks for new ways to reduce medical costs without compromising quality care. Here, her long-term vision was to open an emergency unit specifically for cancer patients, with the goal of improving their care while also relieving overhead costs and high patient volume in the hospital’s emergency room. “The law degree ties in nicely because I’m in a government division, and I’m able to know where regulations are coming from,” Kistama said. “And because I was able to take classes on healthcare reform, I was already familiar with the concept of alternative payment models before I had even heard about this job.” Like Davis and Kistama, most students take the courses part-time in conjunction with their other graduate studies or full-time work. Since the start of

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on patents by professor Polk Wagner. At that point she He said he’s glad he completed the program because discovered the new Master in Law program, which allowed having greater knowledge about the law is helping him her to apply to her degree the law classes she had taken. in his work in higher education and on education reform. “It’s been extremely helpful,” she said. “I think “It’s such a complex legal framework in which education understanding intellectual property in more detail reform happens that most people, even educators, even has helped me talk to a broad range of people who are leaders within the school districts, don’t understand interested in learning about University technologies. It’s it,” Davis said. “So I felt like in order for me to be an been very helpful to learn some basics about copyright effective educator, policy and trademark because we do a limited number of maker, education advocate or copyright licenses and, in regards to trademarks, the even youth advocate, I needed University is not in the business of making things, so to have a better understandwe don’t create trademarks.” ing of the law and be able to Beatrice, who graduated in May, said she appreciated have those conversations.” the flexibility of the program — she took one class at Having graduated from the a time over a period of five years. “The students and ML program in 2017 and professors are very welcoming. They appreciate the receiving his Ph.D. in 2018, different points of view and backgrounds that people Davis has landed the prestibring to the classroom.” gious American Educational Students begin the program by taking three foun- Research Association (AERA) dational courses designed specifically for the degree: Congressional Fellowship in Introduction to U.S. Law and Legal Methods, Intro- Washington, D.C. through duction to General Business Law, and Navigating the the American Educational Regulatory State. Students then take a fourth course Research Association (AERA). from the foundational curriculum focusing in their Earlier this fall, Davis area of specialty, such as healthcare, technology, or scored a big job as a policy compliance. Because students generally earn this degree advisor to U.S. Senator Kamala J E N N K I S T A M A G L ’ 1 7, G N U ’ 1 7 Weill-Cornell Medical Center part-time, while pursuing other degrees or working Harris (D-CA). He’ll be a memat New York Presbyterian Hospital full-time, most foundational classes are offered at ber of her health, education night. Potential degree candidates can also try a class and labor team. or two before formally committing to the program. At this point, admissions “Students are integrated into the Law School at a are highly controlled as the applicant pool for the degree comfortable pace with support from throughout the program is limited to current Penn graduate students Law School,” Restrepo said. and staff and recently University alumni. Restrepo Upon completion of the foundational courses, said there is tremendous interest from professionals students then take courses from the standard JD outside of the Penn community. As such, Penn Law offerings that correspond with their specific interests. is considering future expansion, possibly through targeted, industry-specific partnerships. Restrepo is not the only one looking to the future. K I S TA M A S A I D J U M P I N G F RO M Ronald Litman GL’18, among the early enrollees in the hands-on work in labs to theoretical degree program, is an anesthesiologist at Children’s reading and discussions was initially Hospital of Philadelphia, a member of the faculty at a big adjustment. “I’d be lying if I Penn Medicine, and a longtime medical malpractice said it was easy,” she said. “Like any expert witness. 1L learning how to write like a lawyer A medical malpractice case he learned about years and talk and read like a lawyer, it was a bit of a learning ago caught his attention, prompting his interest in curve, but it was manageable.” medical regulation. A child died on the operating Davis recalled feeling intimidated when he walked table due to receiving the wrong medication. To Dr. into his first upper-level class with all other JD students. Litman’s surprise, there were no regulations regarding It was a local government and law course with Wendell administration of anesthetic medication. Pritchett, whom he had previously come across at A recent graduate of the Master in Law program, Dr. Mayor Nutter’s office. His anxiety was swiftly quelled: Litman envisions the degree giving him the credentials “He just told me straight up, ‘Don’t be afraid to speak and intellectual ballast to advocate for needed change up; the experiences you bring to the table are just as through strategic writing and speaking. valuable to what the others bring from law classes,’” And, to him, the ability to draw on his newfound legal Davis said, adding that after that, he enjoyed partic- knowledge in service to others, while also advancing ipating in the class. his career, is a priceless benefit of his participation in the program.

I tell people all the time now that I don’t know how it happened, but I really found the perfect degree pairing for what I wanted to do.”


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As a sought-after expert in ophthalmology, Eve Higginbotham frequently finds herself in conversation with lawyers who know quite a bit about her field of medicine. “I’m often called to be an expert witness and engage in discussions with lawyers related to malpractice cases, and I’m always amazed by just how much special knowledge the lawyers taking on a case have related to eye disorders and complications related to eye surgery,” she said.

LEGAL KNOWLEDGE “As I continue to serve on boards, it’s really shaping some of the questions that I may pose at the board level”

Interacting with lawyers who had become well-versed in complex medical issues piqued Higginbotham’s curiosity about the flip side of the coin: how a seasoned medical practitioner like her might become more well-versed in the law. Penn Law’s Master in Law (ML) program provided the answer. Through the ML program, Higginbotham has been able to zero in on those areas of law that intersect with her medical practice, particularly subjects like administrative law and the regulation of medical techniques and treatments. She enrolled in the degree program last spring after taking several courses within the curriculum. Higginbotham specializes in the study and treatment of glaucoma, and has maintained an active practice as a physician and clinical researcher since taking on her role as Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. In light of her work, she has developed a particular interest in the legal process of how new treatments and drugs get approved for use in patients. “My interest in the regulatory space was always there, because I’ve always had an interest in clinical trials as well as being involved with the development and testing of some of the new medications for the treatment of glaucoma,” she said.

As an ML student, her coursework has reflected that focus. This semester, she is taking an administrative law course. “That speaks directly to my interest in the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] and the process of approving new drugs,” said Higginbotham. She also had years of experience serving as Chair of the FDA Ophthalmic Devices panel. In a prior semester, she took a survey course covering health law and policy, which offered her deeper insight into Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care financing issues. The ML program has also been valuable to Higginbotham beyond her medical practice, as she has devoted significant time to serving on the boards of directors of major corporations and educational institutions like the Harvard Board of Overseers, the MIT Corporation, and the board of Ascension, the largest non-profit health system in the United States. The myriad board experiences “really deepened my appreciation for understanding the fiduciary responsibilities related to governance,” she said. As a result, Higginbotham decided to include a business law course, and she has reaped the benefits of her increased knowledge of corporate governance and responsibilities. “As I continue to serve on boards, it’s really shaping some of the questions that I may pose at the board level,” she said.

REGULATIONS AND PATIENT SAFETY For pediatric anesthesiologist Ronald S. Litman, D.O., the Master in Law (ML) program has begun to transform the way he teaches, writes, and speaks about the practice of medicine, increasing his attention to the way the law intersects with issues like patient safety. Litman is a Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He was drawn to ML program after hearing about course on health law that would be taught by Penn Law’s Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law Ted Ruger. Litman had previously audited undergraduate courses at Penn, but when he reached out to Ruger personally to learn more about the health law class, the Dean encouraged him to take it for credit in case he ever wanted to pursue more legal education in the future. Enrolling in the course turned out to be the right decision. “I enjoyed the class so much, it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my career, to be in that kind of environment. Medical school is so different—there’s not a lot of interaction in class,” said Litman. But the health law course “was a lot of dialogue … between the professor and the students, and [Ruger] would always ask me my perspective as a physician. Even though there were about 100 students in the class, there were active and lively discussions that revolved around cases or case law.”

Having experienced the rigors of an education in medicine, Litman found that law school courses challenged him in new and enjoyable ways. “There was a lot of reading, but it was so enjoyable that I couldn’t wait to come home and read the assignments,” he said. “I had to learn a lot of legal terms, the kind that you would normally learn in your first year of law school. All of it was new to me and it was a great challenge, but it was really enjoyable.” After Litman completed the course, Ruger told him Penn Law was forming a new Master in Law degree program for members of the Penn Community who wanted to learn more about the law and the many ways it connects with other disciplines. Seizing the opportunity to increase his legal knowledge, Litman decided to enroll. He completed the degree in four years, taking one course per semester. Since then, he has incorporated his newly-earned legal education into his work and his teaching at Penn. “I teach my residents and fellows a lot about legal issues related to medicine,” he said. “I’ve shifted my academic interest to more legal emphasis, so when I lecture and write, it has more to do with the legal implications of our practice.” The ML program also helped Litman to further pursue his interest in regulations related to the safe administration of medicine.

“I wanted to learn more about using knowledge of the law to effectuate safer regulations for medication administration.”

“Over time in my career, I became very interested in medication safety. I once investigated a case where a child died during anesthesia from receiving the wrong drug, and my investigation came up empty as to how to prevent those kinds of mistakes. I wanted to learn more about using knowledge of the law to effectuate safer regulations for medication administration,” he said, pointing out that the United States has enacted surprisingly few pieces of legislation or regulation that address the administration of medication from a patient-protection perspective.

Going forward, he hopes to advocate for increased regulations on precisely those issues. “I’m grateful to Dean Ruger, Cathy Restrepo, and Natalie Green for all their efforts with the ML program and its cross-disciplinary approach,” he said. “The arc of my academic studies here at Penn has been changed for the better, and I am confident this will translate into enhanced patient safety someday.”


Cardiologist Kiran Musunuru is engaged in cutting- cardiovascular disease] in that person,” he explains. edge research on a groundbreaking treatment with “What I’m dreaming of doing is taking these good the potential to protect people against cardiovascular mutations … from those fortunate few who were disease, and Penn Law’s Master in Law (ML) program lucky enough to inherit them, and actually put them is helping to give him the legal and business acumen permanently into the average person, or a person who’s at a particular risk for cardiovascular disease.” to bring it to the world’s population. Of course, there’s a long road from initial research Musunuru’s longstanding intellectual interest in the law initially inspired him to enroll in the program. and development to gaining the necessary approval Before choosing to become a doctor, he said, “I applied to implement the treatment in patients. “As we’ve learned more in my lab about these good to law school and then ended up not choosing to go.” But the prospect of studying law “was always there in mutations and how you could potentially use them to protect people, of course the natural next step is how the back of my mind.” After joining the faculty of Penn’s Perelman School of do we bring this to people,” said Musunuru. “There’s Medicine, he realized a “particular advantage of being no way that one little laboratory can actually take it one unified campus and [having] everything in one to the clinic. It inevitably involves entrepreneurship place … and having tight interconnections between and starting a company.” That’s where the ML program has proven particularly them, was the opportunity to take courses at essentially any school I wanted to[.] So when I heard about the valuable. “Coincident with my enrolling in the Master in Law Master in Law program, it was almost a little dream come true, in the sense that ‘Hey, here’s my chance to program…, over the last year I’ve also been working with colleagues to start a company with this very actually go to law school after all these years!’” concrete goal in mind. Going through that process ML students take several courses from the JD curriculum, alongside JD students, further enriching the has been a learning experience, and I’ve found that educational experience for both. Importantly, however, a lot of what I’m learning in the law school courses the ML curriculum also includes several courses targeted I’m taking toward fulfillment of the ML program are specifically at MLs. Musunuru found those classes to extremely relevant,” said Musunuru. So far, his courses in subjects like patent law and be an ideal opportunity for experts in other disciplines business law have been especially salient. to learn about the law in an accessible way. “[Business Law] was a great course because it really “It’s good because it’s pitched on our level, it’s pitched to people like myself — professionals,” he said, was focused on the life cycle of companies – how they start, how they grow, the end of a life cycle, mergers, citing the practical, real-world focus of the courses. While pursuing the ML degree, Musunuru is acquisitions, and things of that sort. And this was all continuing his innovative work as a physician and really happening in lockstep with my actually being scientist at Penn. He runs a laboratory focused on involved in starting up a company.” The start-up has since pitched to investors and the genetics of cardiovascular disease, where he and his team seek to discover “genetic factors that either secured its initial round of funding. With his team and increase someone’s risk for cardiovascular disease or a few new hires, Musunuru is currently starting work on

“Going forward, any time I’m doing something in a laboratory, there will always be something going on in the back of my mind asking what are the IP implications.” protect against cardiovascular disease,” such as heart disease. The protective factors, which he terms “good mutations,” are of particular interest. “Those are the ones that you would like to take advantage of to help the entire population, not just those fortunate few who happen to be born with the good mutations.” Musunuru may have found a way to do just that: a technique called gene editing. “Imagine if I could take an average person and give them a single shot that would edit that gene in their body and permanently reduce [the risk of

the project in his laboratory at the Pennovation Center. As he moves ahead with the goal of bringing gene editing into medicine’s mainstream, Musunuru expects his legal education to continue to inform his efforts, particularly on the subject of intellectual property. “Going forward, any time I’m doing something in a laboratory, there will always be something going on in the back of my mind asking what are the IP implications,” he said. “That helps to guide how I think about some of the work that I do.”

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