UND's law and medical schools have paired up to offer a new dual juris doctorate and master's in public health degree, the only such program in the multi-state area.

Announced on July 16, the new program will provide future attorneys with an accelerated health policy track allowing them to specialize in public health law, while obtaining a JD and MPH simultaneously.

“For students interested in public health law, this is an ideal dual degree,” said Don Warne, director of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Master's of Public Health program. “These graduates will have skill sets in health law, health policy, and public health.”

Warne is also director of the SMHS doctoral program in Indigenous health, which launched in 2020.

The joint law and public health degree is not a new concept, and is being offered at universities around the nation, including the University of Minnesota. However, UND’s new program is the only one of its kind in North Dakota and South Dakota, and the only one to be found between Minnesota and Washington State. Michael McGinniss, dean of the UND School of Law, said the program could act as an additional draw for law students who want to work in the public health field.

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“It's a very competitive field for admissions,” McGinniss said. “To be able to say we offer something that South Dakota doesn't offer and that Montana doesn't offer, because those are two of our competitors for students in the region, is a great, great thing.”

And the law school is as busy as McGinniss has seen it in his 11 years there. More than 90 incoming first-year students are enrolled to study law at UND. In the last two years, more than 80 first-year students enrolled each year. The school averages between 225 to 250 students each school year. McGinniss said the new program is a way for the law school to continue to provide new educational opportunities for students.

Graduates of the dual-degree program could work in a variety of public health related areas, including writing health policy at the federal or state government level. On the private sector side, graduates could work as attorneys representing health care institutions on compliance with policy.

The idea to add the dual degree program came about in 2018 in conversations between the law school and the medical school. Faculty members approved the program in the fall of 2019, then set to fill out the program and its particulars. The JD/MPH program will be available to students for the upcoming school year.

The program offers some flexibility for MPH students wanting a background in health law. MPH students not going to law school will be able to take the relevant course course through the law school.

According to a release, UND’s public health program has graduated dozens of public health professionals working across the nation, in its nearly 10-year history. Graduates work in areas such as in population health research, epidemiology, health systems and policy and Indigenous health. The dual-degree program opens up the study of public health to more professionals.

The joint JD/MPH degree is the third dual degree program at UND’s School of Law. The school also offers dual master’s degrees in public administration and business administration.