Innovative Program Embeds Law Professors at Health Departments

    • May 22, 2013

St. Paul, M.N.—The Network for Public Health Law and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently launched Scholars in Residence, a fellowship program designed to bring the expertise of legal scholars to assist public health agencies in tackling pressing health issues. The program helps to improve the teaching and scholarly work of the academicians through field experience and provides public health agencies access to legal experts.

Six scholars chosen from across the country will work with local or state health agencies on public health law issues. They are:

Jennifer S. Bard, Alvin R. Allison Professor of Law and Director of the Health Law Program and JD/MD program at Texas Tech University School of Law, will explore the interface between property rights and public health needs relating to nuisance and disease-spreading insects such as bed bugs and mosquitos. She will work with the City of Lubbock, Texas.    

Alex Capron, University Professor at the University of Southern California and the Scott H. Bice Chair in Healthcare Law, Policy and Ethics at the Gould School of Law, will examine federal rules on human subjects research relating to the surveillance of pathogens and viruses. He will work with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Mary Crossley, Professor of Law and former Dean at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, will identify innovative ways in which California health officials can use their legal authority to address the growing burden of chronic diseases through interventions targeting risk behaviors and social and economic factors that impact health. She will work with the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Sharona Hoffman, Edgar A. Hahn Professor of Law and Professor of Bioethics at Case Western Reserve University, as well as Co-Director of the Law School’s Law-Medicine Center, will develop enforcement guidance for regulation of in-home care agencies in order to improve compliance and protect the well-being of the vulnerable individuals served by these agencies. She will work with the Oregon Health Authority in Portland.

Browne Lewis, Leon & Gloria Plevin Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Health Law & Policy at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, will focus on current state and federal preemption issues regarding local government regulation of the labeling, marketing and sale of small cigars. She will work with both the Cleveland Department of Public Health and the Shaker Heights Department of Public Health.

Polly J. Price, Professor at Law at Emory University School of Law, will address the coordination of public health agencies in providing long-term tuberculosis therapy among migrants along the U.S. border with Mexico.  She will work with public health agencies in El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

 “The Scholars in Residence Program brings legal expertise and perspective to the important work being done by public health departments,” said Paul Kuehnert, senior program officer and director of the Public Health Team at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “It’s critical that we address public health issues from multiple fronts.”

“The program is a prime example of how the Network advances the field of public health law,” said Doug Blanke, director of the Public Health Law Center where the Network’s National Coordinating Center is based. “In connecting the legal experts with those on the front lines, we get real-world examples of how law can be used to improve public health.”

More information about the scholars and their projects is available at

About the Network for Public Health Law

The Network for Public Health Law helps local, tribal, state and federal officials; public health practitioners; attorneys; policy-makers; and advocates use law as a tool to improve public health. With Regional Centers across the United States, the Network provides free assistance and resources to those who must grapple with the many legal complexities that exist in areas like health care reform, injury prevention, emergency preparedness, food safety, obesity prevention and others. Organizations and individuals committed to improving public health can join the Network. The Network is a national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Media Contacts:    

Christine Clayton   Robert Wood Johnson Foundation   (609) 627-5937

Ann Phi-Wendt   Network for Public Health Law   (651) 695-7617

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. Follow the Foundation on Twitter or Facebook.