Law and Health Research and Policy

JD/MS — Health Services Research or Epidemiology

The American health care system now accounts for more than 16 percent of the U.S. gross national product—about one dollar out of every six spent in the United States on any goods and services. The vast size and unsustainable growth of this sector makes research about the U.S. health system vitally important as we seek to learn what our system does well, what it does poorly, and how to improve its quality while lowering its cost. A degree that blends knowledge of the medical, regulatory, and legal arenas will be a key tool for those interested in reforming the system—or in just keeping it working.

In what may be the only program of its kind anywhere, Stanford offers a world-class research campus that integrates a leading law school with renowned science resources, including a medical school, a medical center, and a wide variety of interdisciplinary programs. Joint degree programs in health services research are offered through a partnership between the law school and the Department of Health Research and Policy.

Two masters degrees are available as part of our joint degree program: One in health services research, and one in epidemiology. Both programs prepare students to be intelligent consumers of a great deal of medical research, including important clinical trials.

The masters program in health services research focuses on how health care is delivered and how that delivery can be improved. This degree generates knowledge concerning the incredibly complex and fragmented American health care system and educates students in methods to assess particular interventions, whether they are new surgical procedures, new forms of health care financing, or new methods of quality assurance in medicine.

The masters program in epidemiology trains students in statistics and in their application to the real problems of populations. Although this program traditionally examines issues like the incidence of disease, its methods also apply to the diagnosis of social conditions, such as the epidemiology of violent crime or of arrests for drug crimes.

Law students interested in these programs will find themselves in a special location for this kind of work. The physical proximity of Stanford’s schools and the university’s genuine openness to interdisciplinary work make it easy to take advantage of the many possibilities Stanford offers. And, of course, Stanford is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, the world’s leading center for biotechnology, one of the leading regions for medical devices, and home to the innovative and highly regarded Kaiser Permanente health care delivery system.

With their unique combination of expertise, Stanford students with a JD and a masters degree in either health services research or epidemiology will find themselves in demand by law firms; government agencies; hospitals and clinics; insurers and other parts of the health care financing system; pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical devices firms and the entities that finance them; and academia.

Course Requirements

As many as 45 quarter units of approved courses may be counted toward both degrees. No more than 31 quarter units of approved courses that originate outside the law school may count toward the law degree.

The maximum number of law school credits that may be counted toward the masters degrees or in the applicable Health Research and Policy program is the greater of: (1) 9 quarter units; or (ii) the maximum number of units from courses outside the applicable Health Research and Policy program that students are permitted to count toward the MS degree under general program guidelines or in the particular student’s case. Each of the Masters degrees requires a Masters thesis, usually of 10 or 11 quarter units.


Note to applicants: The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program awards full funding to Stanford graduate students from all disciplines, with additional opportunities for leadership training and collaboration across fields. Joint Degree applicants are encouraged to apply to the KnightHennessy Scholars Program.  Please be aware that the Knight-Hennessy Scholars applications are due in early Autumn one year prior to enrollment. View dates and deadlines: https://knighthennessy.stanford.edu/admission/apply-now