Experiencing public health law first hand - The University of Tulsa

Experiencing public health law first hand

The University of Tulsa College of Law makes externships available to 2L and 3L students with partners across the country. Offering meaningful lawyering and professional experiences, externships are a vital component in getting students ready for practice.

Tall woman with long blonde hair, arms crossed, wearing a black blazer, standing outdoors
Morgan Jones

This spring semester, Morgan Jones is spending her final semester of law school externing for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Under normal circumstances, this externship would have seen Jones living in Atlanta. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Jones is carrying out her duties remotely.

Health equity

Jones’s externship with the CDC is in line with the reason she decided to attend law school. “After graduating with a BS in psychology from Oklahoma State University, I considered going to medical school or pursuing a graduate degree in health psychology,” Jones said. “I ultimately chose the law school route so that I could study health policy and learn to use the law to make health care more equitable and improve public health.”

In particular, Jones is interested in equitable pain management and social determinants of health, noting, “I have seen firsthand the disproportionate health impacts on vulnerable populations in my community and how lack of accessibility hurts disabled populations.” TU Law’s strength in health law plus generous scholarship assistance convinced her that this was the place to get the training required to meet her goals.

Legal epidemiology

For her externship, Jones is building on knowledge she gained in the classroom through projects with the CDC’s Public Health Law Program (PHLP). In particular, this externship is helping her develop skills that are required in the emerging field of legal epidemiology, the basis of which entails treating laws and policies as variables that impact health.

Jones’s work with the CDC has required her to work collaboratively with staff attorneys on various projects, including COVID-19 executive orders, pregnancy discrimination laws and parsing through legislation, rules and session laws to identify subject changes in mental health law over time. In addition, Jones has been able to develop a legal epidemiology research project of her own focused on equitable opioid prescribing.

 

 

Besides the experiential learning derived such undertakings, Jones has been able to take part – via Zoom – in the PHLP’s trainings, which happen at least once a week. These have addressed an array of topics, including public health law, health equity, tribal public health law, environmental public health law, legal writing for public health audiences, and crisis and emergency risk communication. Jones also emphasized “the great networking and professional relationships I have gained through this externship.”

A community of support

Now that she is on the brink of graduating and starting her career in public health law, Jones is also taking time to reflect on her three-year law school journey.

“I’ve been so impressed by the faculty and staff here at TU Law,” Jones remarked. “To begin with, their ‘open door policy’ and the way they all make themselves so available has been so beneficial. Because of my areas of scholarly and professional interest, two professors – Matt Lamkin and Aila Hoss — have really stood out. Professor Lamkin has a great sense of humor and truly cares about his students. I have taken torts, medical malpractice liability and bioethics with him. I know it sounds a bit unbelievable to some, but his two-hour torts classes just flew by! Even though I am no longer taking courses with him, I am fortunate that Professor Lamkin is my faculty mentor.”

In addition to her CDC externship, during her final year Jones is working as a research assistant for Hoss, a health law and Indian law expert who joined the TU Law faculty in 2020. Rachel Baker (JD ’12), associate dean and director of professional development, knew of Jones’s interest in health law and therefore recommended her for Hoss’s research position.

“Morgan is an exceptional researcher, thanks in large part to her attention to detail and curiosity about the unintended consequences of law’s impact on health,” Hoss remarked. “I started my career at the CDC’s Public Health Law Program and it was an invaluable experience. I am excited to see how Morgan uses this work after graduation.”

Together, Hoss and Jones have investigated public health law, legal epidemiology, policy development and Indian law. For their most recent project, the duo conducted a legal mapping study on state water safety laws and policies. Now, she is helping Hoss write an article about tribal vaccine mandates, which will be published later this year, timed perfectly to coincide with the beginning of her undoubtedly brilliant career.


TU Law helps students land externship opportunities from one end of the country to the other. Find out more about this outstanding preparation for legal practice.