Health Law

The Program


The distinguishing feature of the Law School’s program in health law is its genuine collaboration with the University’s School of Medicine and its Medical Center, which is consistently ranked among the nation’s top hospitals. At Virginia, law students can study health law in the clinical setting, interacting with medical students and physicians. They can also view the regulatory context through the eyes of physicians, inventors and health care administrators. Law faculty teach in the School of Medicine and Medical School professors teach in the Law School’s program. Law students and faculty have the opportunity to work with students and faculty from all medical specialties, including pediatrics, neurology, internal medicine (infectious disease and geriatrics) and psychiatry.

This collaboration is further borne out in a number of interdisciplinary institutes and centers, including:

J.D.-M.P.H. (Public Health) Program

In conjunction with the Department of Public Health Sciences at the School of Medicine, the Law School offers a combined degree in public health. The students in the program can enrich their health law course work with a wide range of graduate courses in health policy and management, health economics, ethics, global health, social and behavioral health, environmental health and research methodology. The M.P.H. program offers concentrations in generalist practice and research, health policy, and law and ethics, and includes field placement options in global health, health policy and public health sites. Directed by Ruth Gaare Bernheim, J.D., M.P.H., a member of the ethics panel for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the M.P.H. program features close collaboration with the federal CDC and with state and local public health offices in Virginia.

Instituted in 2003 by the Law School, the School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the combined J.D.-M.P.H. program takes four years to complete and requires a minimum of 116 credits. In effect, the program consists of the complete first-year program at the Law School and at least three years of courses taken from the curricula of the two schools and, when appropriate, from other graduate offerings at the University. More

J.D.-M.D. Program

Designed to educate the next generation of health leaders, the J.D.-M.D. program allows students to complete law and medical degrees in six years, instead of the seven years normally required if the degrees were pursued separately. Students spend the first three years and the summer of year five in classes at the School of Medicine, and years four and five at the Law School. In the final year, one semester is spent in each school. Students are required to secure admission separately to the School of Medicine and UVA Law through the normal admissions processes of the two schools. More

Professor Margaret Foster Riley on the Health Law Program

Bioethics and Public Policy

The University’s Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life — directed by Professor James Childress, one of the nation’s leading bioethicists — and the Center for Biomedical Ethics allow students to study and work on pressing issues in health care, biotechnology, research, genetics and moral philosophy. A number of bioethics classes are co-taught by Law, Medical and Arts & Sciences faculty. The Law School also participates in the university-wide Center for Health Policy, in conjunction with the University’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.


Students in the yearlong Health Law Clinic help represent mentally ill and elderly clients in negotiations, administrative hearings and court proceedings. The legal matters may involve civil rights, mental health care in jails and prisons, disability benefits claims, access to health or rehabilitative services, creating wills and other testamentary documents, and advanced directives.


Students may apply for funding from the Law School’s health law fellowship program to work with faculty, health lawyers and public health professionals in a variety of settings, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Law Program and the Food and Drug Administration.

Health Law Contacts

Professor Richard Bonnie
Professor Ruth Gaare Bernheim
Professor Margaret Foster Riley