MD or JD? Why not Both?

My Story

When I was a sophomore in undergrad, I developed an internship at my local coroner’s office. I had wanted to be a death investigator for years; the time had come to experience the sights and smells. At the Coroner’s Office, I fell in love with both medicine and law and I found myself at the intersection between them, attempting to figure out how I could integrate the two into my future career.

As a doctor, I could perform autopsies to identify the cause of death and provide the prosecution with the evidence that they needed for justice. As an attorney, I could be the voice for those no longer able to advocate for themselves.

However, I could not bring myself to just choose one.

I began my criminal justice minor as soon as I returned to classes. It took several semesters before I encountered someone who suggested a dual degree. “Why not do both? My husband is an MD/JD and works down the street,” she said. I met with him and discovered that the programs, in fact, were real. And the possibilities were endless. While he worked in pharmaceutical law, he connected me with several other MD/JDs in public health policy, in malpractice law, and in forensics. Identifying current students was like finding needles in a haystack, but they were out there and ready to share their experiences. Ultimately, I knew it was right for me. It was a fortune cookie that gave me the push. It stated, “nothing can stop you from the vision that you have of yourself.” Just like that, I became a pre-law student in addition to pre-med.

What is the Process?

The application process was a whirlwind. With next to no one able to help me, I was tasked with many hours of research. The application processes are independent of one another entirely.

I took the MCAT and I applied to medical school, as any other medical school applicant would. Three months later, I took the LSAT and I applied to law school, as any other law school applicant would.

While my experiences remained the same, my two personal statements reflected my two distinct passions. Fortunately, the social determinants of health are so deeply rooted in public health policy. But nonetheless, I had to develop a way to to spin my experiences to wear both hats. With only about fifteen schools offering the program in the United States, my choices were relatively easy to determine.

So what do Programs look like?

Schools cannot get too creative with two doctorate degrees. The program is six years, no matter where you go. But they do come in two flavors: they produce doctors with a law degree or lawyers with a medical degree. I knew that I wanted to practice medicine and so I sought out the former. From there, programs varied in their organization. Some were two years of law school, followed by four years of medical school. Others broke up classroom and clinical years with law school in the middle. With no preference for either, I sent in eight applications and crossed my fingers.

My Path

            As someone who was a traditional medical school applicant, I did not have much faith in my ability to gain acceptance to law school. In addition, I was met with resistance from my family, friends, and mentors. “Why would you do that to yourself?” being the most prominent question. Followed by, “but I thought you wanted to be a doctor, not a lawyer?” At the end of the day, no one understood. I did not let this stop me from applying and a weight lifted from my shoulders on the day that I received both my first acceptance and my first full-tuition scholarship. While this was not the school that I dreamed of going to, the affirmation was exactly what I needed.

I felt that, finally, I was a good law school applicant. My vision had been seen by that admissions committee and all of the doubts that surrounded me faded into nothing but white noise.

Six law school acceptances later, I feel that I’ve made the right choice.

I found an MD/JD program that will help me to achieve my goals. In talking with previous students, they assure me that my dreams will be heard and supported—no matter how lofty they may seem to an outsider. I hope to find this true when I begin law school this fall.

By: Justine

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