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First graduates of joint J.D./M.D. program look to future at the intersection of law and medicine

Mark Fadel came to The University of Toledo well-informed about what lie ahead.

One of his brothers is a surgeon. Another, an attorney. Fadel had seen firsthand the rigors of completing just one of those degrees.

He was embarking on both simultaneously. Law and medicine combined.

Mark Fadel and Alexis Holman are the first graduates of the University’s J.D./M.D. program.

“Watching them go through those programs individually, they sacrificed a lot,” he said. “To do it together was very difficult. It took a lot of perseverance.”

After six years of intense study, switching between medical textbooks and case law, clinical rotations and writing projects, Fadel will join Alexis Holman as the first graduates of UToledo’s J.D./M.D. program.

Holman also is set to receive the valedictorian award at the law commencement ceremony.

“There is a famous quote, ‘Faith is taking the first step when you do not see the top of the staircase.’ That is a great analogy for the program,” Holman said. “There were some challenging moments for us, but I am so happy we saw it through. Graduation will be a special moment.”

One of roughly two dozen such programs in the country, UToledo’s joint degree, established in 2013, is geared toward individuals who are driven to work at the intersection of medicine and law who seek opportunities to shape the future of health-care policy.

D. Benjamin Barros, dean of the College of Law, said it takes an amazing amount of talent, ambition and perseverance to complete two professional doctorates in such a short time frame.

“The combination of the two degrees can be very powerful. There are a wide range of intersections between law and medicine, and there are only a few people who are fully trained in both,” Barros said. “Recipients of this joint degree are well-poised to be leaders in a wide range of areas, including health-care policy, health-care system management and health-care regulation. We are incredibly proud of Alexis and Mark.”

After graduation, Fadel is going to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for a residency in otolaryngology, more commonly known as an ear, nose and throat specialist. He has already taken the bar exam and expects to learn his results within the month.

Holman will head to the University of Michigan for a residency in anesthesiology. She elected to take the bar exam after learning where she matched for residency.

Each said their respective residency programs were receptive to their dual degrees and the perspective that brings. They intend to continue researching and writing on medical law topics while in residency.

Looking further into the future, Holman and Fadel see a wide range of opportunities to put their unique training to use.

“With the changing face of health care — the shift to bigger medicine and increase in regulation — I was interested in trying to give physicians a seat at the table to help shape the future of care delivery in the United States,” Holman said.

Fadel and Holman already have had their work recognized at a national level, winning the Hirsch Award in the American College of Legal Medicine Student Writing Competition in back-to-back years. Fadel was recognized in 2018 for a piece arguing for stronger limitations on who can opt out of measles vaccinations read the UT News story. Holman won in 2019 for a paper questioning whether the FDA’s processes for determining equivalency between name brand and generic drugs were sufficient; read the UT News story.

“We are very proud of these two for their academic accomplishments and excellence,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and executive vice president for clinical affairs. “They were the pioneers of this new program, and they have set an excellent example. They have a bright future ahead of them.”

Holman and Fadel credited faculty in the College of Law and College of Medicine and Life Sciences for being open to working with them as the first students in the program, and each other for their support during the difficult parts of their journey.

“Watching our friends match, graduate, sit for the bar, and participate in all the exciting things you do at the end of each of these programs was pretty hard to watch,” Fadel said. “We always wondered when it would be our moment and, finally, it came.”

The College of Law commencement is Sunday, May 5. The College of Medicine and Life Sciences commencement is Friday, May 10.