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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

The Legal and Social Determinants of Health: Medical Legal Community Partnerships (Fall 2019)

  • Course Number: LAW-698
  • Class Number: 03371
  • Instructor: Barbara Siegel

Course Description

Class Description:   This is a 2-unit interdisciplinary course open to law and medical students interested in exploring the link between poverty and health and how the professions can work together to improve health outcomes for low income individuals and vulnerable communities.  The course explores how legal, social, cultural and economic factors contribute to health disparities and the role that physicians and lawyers can play in advocating for patients and policy change. 

The course is taught by practicing attorneys at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, and is focused on working in a Medical Legal Community Partnership setting.  

Weekly class lectures and discussions will focus on medical and legal issues impacting the target population. Through facilitated discussion and inter-professional problem-solving students can learn and practice medical-legal approaches to the complex health and legal needs of vulnerable patients and populations. 

Class will include lecture, case presentations, discussions and potential field trips.  You will be expected to apply and discuss the readings as they relate to legal-medical cases that will be presented during class.  Occasionally during class time, we may visit community organizations and institutions. 

For law students, there are several options for simultaneous enrollment in the following courses:

Law students may add a one-unit writing course on a professor-approved topic.  Paper must be 15-20 pages in length and students must meet with Professor Siegel or Nishino at least twice during the semester to discuss topic and progress. 
Law students may elect to enroll in additional Practicum units (LAW 808) at a Medical Legal Community Partnership operated by Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County.  The Practicum may be taken for 2 or 3 units, with hours arranged by mutual consent between professors and each student.  Practicum hours must be in at least 3 hour blocks and are available every day except Wednesday.  Law students may take LAW 808 for 2 semesters for a total of 5 units. 

Medical student enrollment is limited to 2-3 students per month, beginning in September or October.  Because medical students are required to enroll full time for 4 weeks, we will likely have several sets of medical students during the semester.

Course Objectives:

Students will be able to:

Identify and define the social determinants of health.
Discuss the impact of the unmet legal needs and other social determinants of health on health outcomes for vulnerable patients and their communities.
Discuss the ethical issues confronting legal and health professionals who work in a Medical Legal Partnership setting.
Identify creative and collaborate ways to address social determinants of health to improve individual and community health outcomes.
Identify the roles of an interdisciplinary team in a Medical Legal Partnership.
Identify community, social, educational, and legal resources available to address the social determinants of health.
Identify ways lawyers can advocate for community and policy changes that improve health outcomes in vulnerable communities

Readings & Response to readings:  Readings beyond the required text will be available on the blackboard in the “content” folder.  The Video, “Unnatural Causes,” is on reserve at the library and also on mylawportal.

 The required texts are:

“Poverty, Health and Law: Readings and Cases for Medical-Legal Partnership,” by Tobin-Tyler, Lawton, Conroy, Sandel and Zuckerman.

Manchanda, Rishi, “The Upstream Doctors:  Medical Innovators Track Sickness to its Source,” available only on line. .   

Students are required to submit “Responses to Readings” (posted in the discussions section of Blackboard) on at least 6 of the weekly reading assignments and are also required to submit at least 4 commentaries on comments posted by other students.  The questions to address will be posted on the Blackboard in the “discussion” folder. The “responses” should address the questions posed and any comments on posted responses must exhibit an understanding of the readings. 

Grading:  Grading will be based on:

15% class participation;

30% on 3 in-class assigned presentations;

20% on written Responses and Comments to Readings (see above);

20% on a legal case plan in response to a simulated Medical Legal Community Partnership intake; and 15% on an individual oral presentation. 

There is no final exam. 

Credit/Grade: You may take the class for credit rather than a grade.

Absences: Contact for class: Professor Barbara Siegel: 310-890-3069, or;   Please let Professor Siegel know in advance by calling cell phone (310) 890-3069 if you need to miss class due to sickness or another excused absence. 

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 2 or 3
  • Grading Options: Numerical or CR/D/F
  • Exam: None
  • Writing Requirement: Yes with submission of the Upper Division Writing Requirement Form.
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: no