What I enjoy most is working with students. Whether it's a research project for undergraduates or a particular dissertation for a graduate student, I really enjoy working with students because they get excited when they learn how to use mathematics to solve problems in biology. I think that my purpose as a researcher and a teacher is to get the next generation excited about mathematics and learn tools that help us to cross disciplinary boundaries. Mathematics is the link . . . that ties all sorts of fields together.
The road to Texas Tech has been a long one for Professor Jennifer Bard, but her responsibilities to educate law and medical students has helped to ensure that the journey has been worth all the years of study, practice, and commitment to integrated scholarship. Bard calls her dual appointment at the TTU School of Law and the Health Sciences Center a "dream job," allowing her to follow in the path of the late Professor Angela Holder, a leading voice in health care law. Bard's lectures and research focus on health-related topics, including bioethics, the insanity defense, and whistleblowing. Her research has been published widely, and her engagement in teaching has been noteworthy, earning her the recognition of the university and peers; in recent years, Bard has received the TTU President's Excellence in Teaching Award and was elected to the American Law Institute, in addition to other professional achievements. Also, her service contributions have included work with Texas Tech's Research Advisory Council and Teaching Academy, as well as volunteerism with her congregation.
Learn more about Integrated Scholar Jennifer Bard in this question-and-answer session.
What are your research objectives and interests?
My research interests center around the law's role in working with science and medicine to improve health and well-being. This stems from my public health training where I learned to think about how think about populations as a whole rather than just individuals. Specifically, that means I am interested in things like how laws can help assure that the kind of human research that we need to do in order to make new discoveries can be conducted without unnecessary risk or exploitation to people who because of their own illness or economic situation are already vulnerable to agreeing to participate in a study which is not of direct benefit to them personally.
How do you feel your research impacts the globe?
We are at a point where over 90% of new drug trials take place outside of the United States and many of them in places with far less developed human subject protection laws or even practices. It is only by creating standards here in the United States for how the drugs we use are tested that we can be sure that we are not exploiting people in other parts of the world.
What types of service projects have you been involved with?
I am very active in a number of organizations in my profession. Currently I am the chair of the American Association of Law Professors section on Law, Medicine and Health Care and I will serve on its executive board for the next several years. Last year I put together a panel presentation feature health law professors who were taking their scholarship and teaching out of the classroom and academy and into their communities. The project expanded to a special issue of a health law journal in which 12 law professors wrote essays describing ways they are reaching beyond the classroom. It's my hope that this volume, which will be widely available to all health law professors in the country, will inspire further innovation and outreach.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a variety of writing and research projects looking at the impact of the law on the public's health. This includes work on whether extending whistleblower protection to research scientists would help protect against dangers that would otherwise be unknown. I'm excited to be doing new work with the F. Marie Hall Center for Rural Health looking at how concerns over enforcement of immigration laws could affect access to health care.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I am inspired by the energy and dedication of the law and medical students with whom I work.
What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research and service—in their careers?
My advice is to set goals for yourself in each category. Teaching is always the most urgent demand because it's a scheduled activity. Students are always my first priority. For that reason, I find it helpful to schedule research and writing time on my calendar. In very busy teaching times of the year, it's been helpful to schedule an hour during the week to review articles or journals or blogs in my field so that I am, at least, engaging in some scholarship activities.
I graduated as an English major from Wellesley College with no particular interest or background in medicine or science. My dream was to study law at Oxford University and I was lucky enough to apply and be able to do that. Through a series of scheduling issues, I had to take two philosophy classes as part of my law degree. At Oxford, a "class" is sitting down with a single professor and engaging in a series of guided reading and essay writing over nine weeks. It was working with two exceptionally brilliant and engaging professors, including Dr. Kathy Wilkes, that I first learned about the kinds of issues I was later to learn make up the field of bioethics.
Almost finished with my course work and convinced that life was passing me by, I left Oxford before taking my exams, much to the consternation of my professors, to take the offer of admission I had deferred from Yale Law School. I did so with the intent of finding out more about the intersection of law & medicine and was lucky enough to almost immediately meet and begin taking classes with Angela Holder, an exceptional health care lawyer, teacher, and bioethicist. Seeing her engage with medical students about the kind of ethical challenges they were likely to face made me want to do exactly the same thing: teach law students and medical students.
And I am—only it took me a long time. After graduation I followed a standard path of clerking for a Federal Judge, the Chief Judge of the District of Massachusetts, and then spent six years doing international law, mostly mergers & acquisitions, until I had paid off my law school loans.
At that point I started on the path that led me from practice to academe. It involved getting a public health degree, working as an assistant attorney general on health care fraud issues and finally getting my first academic appointment at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Entering that world represented the achievement of what at times seemed like a long and always potentially fruitless effort. After two years at UTMB I was lucky enough to obtain a tenure track position at the Texas Tech School of Law and soon also had an adjunct appointment at the medical school.
The teaching, writing, research, and public speaking I have done over the last twelve years have lived up to every expectation I ever had of being an academic. The personal rewards of working with so many talented students at the beginning of their professional careers has exceeded these expectations. And what I could never have anticipated is the development of technology that has made it possible for me to join a rich national and international community of scholars with the same ease as talking to a colleague down the hall. I also had not anticipated the rewards of being able to translate my legal, public health and bioethics research into op-eds and now blog posts in a way that makes the complexities of the law and of bioethics.
Finally, it is energizing to be part of the support and inspiration available in a vibrant research community like Texas Tech. My decision to pursue a Ph.D. in higher education has been based on my curiosity to know more about how institutions like this thrive and grow.
AB, Wellesley College, 1983
JD, Yale Law School, 1987
MPH, University of Connecticut, 1997
PhD candidate, Texas Tech University, (2012)