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California Western, UC San Diego partner to address community health needs

The challenges facing many downtown residents go beyond access to housing and include access to other basics, including medical care and legal assistance. Getting through the day can prove overwhelming. Today, community resources often struggle to meet the growing needs of our poor neighbors in San Diego. A growing number of San Diego residents are unable to afford legal assistance but need professional advice as they navigate issues related to financial uncertainty.

To address some of these needs while providing law students a unique opportunity to develop legal and life skills they could never acquire in the classroom, California Western School of Law created the Community Law Project in 2004.

The program’s exponential growth results from both the high number of word-of-mouth referrals from clients served and the compounding impact the recession is taking on local families.

What also makes the project unique is its holistic approach, developed in partnership with UC San Diego’s School of Medicine, a small pharmacy, and the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.

Working at the clinic offers students their first look at the challenges facing some of their neighbors in the downtown community. Last year alone, California Western students donated more than 700 hours of free legal assistance through the program.

“The project is an exciting and fulfilling environment for our law students, almost like working in an emergency room,” said Executive Director Dana Sisitsky. “The students have a life-changing experience because they’ve seen on a very personal level what it means to help people who have put their trust and future in their hands.”

The Community Law Project is one of a number of collaborations between California Western and UC San Diego. The two schools have a proud history of providing cooperative learning and experiential opportunities to their students, including a combined master’s degree in health law. In the case of the California Law Project, the benefits derived from the institutions’ partnership extend to the local community.

Recognizing the need for professionals who possess a strong knowledge of health care and law, California Western School of Law and the University of California San Diego continue to expand on the partnership established between the two schools by jointly offering a master’s degree in health law. Needs created at the overlap of the two disciplines is considered by many legal and medical experts to be one of the fastest growing areas in both professions.

To bridge the differences that exist between health care and law, the program focuses on educating mid-career professionals in both fields who need to be better informed and more influential in shaping health care law and policy. These include practicing attorneys, paralegals, physicians, nurses, health care administrators, biomedical scientists, public health officers and government officials, among others.

The master’s degree in health law offers programs of study that range from 18-36 months and encompasses courses at both institutions. For more information, visit hlaw.ucsd.edu.

Submitted by California Western School of Law

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