Health Law Program

Pitt Law’s Health Law Program, one of the oldest in the country, is intended to give students interested in health law a basic grounding in the field, complemented by clinical experience and more in-depth study of advanced topics and closely related areas of law. Students are expected and encouraged to obtain the same broad background in law expected of all graduates for the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. 

The health care industry comprises more than one-sixth of the entire economy—larger even than the automobile industry. It is also a large consumer of legal services. Law firms ranging from the largest to the smallest provide legal services to hospitals, health insurance companies, nursing homes, physicians' practices, home health agencies, and pharmaceutical and device manufacturers, to name some of the more prominent. In addition, many of the larger providers of health care goods and services employ a large number of lawyers in house. Although there are a few areas that are substantively unique—such as Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, certificate of need requirements, and fraud and abuse prohibitions—much of health law involves the application of other areas of law, such as corporate law, employment law, and real estate law to the health care industry's special circumstances.

The Health Law Program offers more than three dozen courses and prepares students for practice in all aspects of health law and in all types of health care settings. Three different tracks—Regulatory and Transactional, Bioethics, or Public Health—permit you to concentrate your efforts in the area that most interests you. However, courses in all tracks are open to all students in the program, so the election of any particular track still permits you to obtain a broad base of study in health law. In addition to law school courses, students in the Health Law Certificate Program may take up to 6 credits in the Graduate School of Public Health, The Center for Bioethics and Health Law, The Heinz School at Carnegie Mellon University (adjacent to the Pitt campus).

Most students select the Regulatory and Transactional track, which is the most general of the three. It focuses on providing education in the business of health law: the law governing the operation of health care institutions and the law governing the regulation of health care professionals. This is the default track, and if you do not select one of the other tracks, this is the one in which you will automatically be registered.

Regardless of the track, all students in the Health Law Certificate Program take a common core of courses: the survey course in Health Law and Policy, and Current Issues in Health Law I and II.  All students in the program are able to choose from almost the same list of electives, and all must take a clinical or practicum experience, and write their upper level writing requirement paper on a topic in health law.

Students also have the opportunity to keep pace with the hottest topics in health law by attending the Pennsylvania Bar Institute's annual two-day Health Law Institute and to participate in interschool competitions in health care regulatory and compliance law and in health care transactional law.

Read about Pitt Health Law in the news.

The Health Law Certificate Program offers the following three tracks

Regulatory and Transactional is the new name for the traditional Health Law Certificate course of study in existence since 1996. Its focus is on the "business of health law", health care financing, credentialing of health care professionals, and government regulation of the health care system. If you have already registered for the Health Law Certificate Program, you are automatically registered in the Regulatory and Transactional Track.

Bioethics focuses on legal aspects of ethical issues arising between doctors, patients, families, and the state. It is concerned with problems such as physician-patient decision making, end-of-life decision making, organ transplantation, allocation of scarce resources, genetic engineering, and biomedical research.

Public Health focuses on the health of populations, as opposed to the health of individuals, and consequently public health law focuses on legal aspects of public health practice and the consequences of law on the public's health.

Each track has its own requirements. However, students in all tracks must, in the Fall Semester of their second year of law school, take Health Law and Policy and Current Issues in Health Law I.   Students who wish to enroll in more than one track need the permission of the Program Director.

Please note that these programs may require that you complete an internship, externship, or other field work at a facility or facilities external to the University and that such facility or facilities may require a criminal background check, an Act 33/34 clearance (if applicable), and perhaps a drug screen to determine whether you are qualified to participate.

Semester in DC

Regardless of which track you select, you may participate in Pitt Law’s Semester in DC Program if your externship placement is in health law and the particular kind of health law relates to the track you have chosen. With the permission of the Program Director, the externship will satisfy the Health Law Certificate Program’s clinical requirement, and it will satisfy one course’s worth of required elective or elective credit, depending on the nature of the experience. The paper written for the seminar portion of the Semester in DC will satisfy the upper-level writing requirement for the Health Law Certificate Program if written on a topic in health law and approved by the Program Director.

Alan Meisel is a law professor and the Dickie, McCamey, and Chilcote Professor of Bioethics and founder and director of Pitt's Center for Bioethics and Health Law. He is a leading national and international authority on end-of-life decision making and is the author of The Right to Die (Aspen Law and Business). He has served on the staff of the President's Commission on Ethical Issues in Medicine, and on the White House Task Force on Health Care Reform.

Mary Crossley is a national expert on issues of inequality in health care.   She has published numerous scholarly articles, focusing particularly on disability discrimination in health care finance and delivery.

Lawrence A. Frolik is a national expert on the legal issues of older Americans and one of the founders of the area now known as Elder Law. Professor Frolik has written several books and numerous scholarly articles on elder law issues, and served as a congressional delegate to the White House Conference on Aging in 1995.

Martha Mannix , supervising attorney of the Elder Law Clinic, focuses on issues surrounding the mental incapacity of older adults, including guardianship and advance planning for incapacity, such as living wills and durable powers of attorney.

In addition to regular Law School faculty, leading practitioners provide a practical perspective on the teaching of health law.

Elizabeth Ferrell Bjerke, Esquire is an adjunct professor of law and a legal analyst for the Center for Public Health Practice at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health.

C. Allen Black, Jr., Esquire, is Assistant Professor of Law.  Dr. Black has practice patient law at some of the largest firms in the United States.  Before practicing law, Dr. Black was an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh where he developed vaccines for infectious diseases and cancer.

Susan Frietsche, Esquire is the Founder and Director of the Western Pennsylvania’s office of the Women’s Law Project.

Joseph H. Hornack, Esquire is a partner in the firm of Healey & Hornack.  Mr. Hornack concentrates his law practice in the area of employee rights and benefits.

Penina Kessler Lieber, Esquire practices with the firm of Dinsmore & Shahl, LLP exclusively in the area of nonprofit and tax-exempt law.  Ms. Lieber teaches Non-Profit Tax Exempt Organizations at Pitt Law.

David L. McClenahan, Esquire is of Counsel at K&L Gates.  He litigates cases arising out of antitrust laws, federal securities laws, health care issues, and general business disputes.

William McKendree, Esquire is supervisor of the APPRISE Program in Allegheny County.  APPRISE is Pennsylvania’s Health Insurance Assistance Program helping consumers with Medicare, Medicaid, long term care and health insurance concerns.

Lisa Parker, PhD is an Associate Professor of Human Genetics and Behavioral and Community Health Sciences in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.  She is the Director of the MA Program in Bioethics in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

Robert B. Ramsey, III, Esquire is a shareholder at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney’s Health Care Section and offers a course in Health Care Fraud and Abuse.

John S. Rozel, MD is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and Medical Director of the Re:Solve Crisis Network.

Stephanie W. Schreiber, Esquire practices law in the areas of substantial mergers and acquisition transactions.  She is regularly involved in advising health care clients on compliance and regulatory matters.

John A. Zottola is a judge on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.  He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh and teaches Mental Health Law with John Rozel.

Students enrolled in a degree program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law can develop an expertise in the rapidly changing, steadily growing field of health law through the Law School's new Health Law Certificate Program.

The program provides students with a strong foundation in health law that will enable them to practice in a variety of contexts, including law firms, health care management firms and insurers, government, and health care institutions. A combination of classroom and clinical components acquaints students with everything from complex business and legal transactions, to bioethics and patient care issues, to the variety of legal issues that arise in the operation of a health care institution. Students gain hands-on experience in these areas through their work in the Law School's clinics and practicums, and in externships and summer jobs available in the health care setting.

In addition to courses taught by regular law school faculty, leading practitioners in various fields of health law such as antitrust, fraud and abuse, business transactions, disabilities law, and nonprofit organizations teach courses designed to relate theory to practice. In addition, Current Issues in Health Law, a required course for all Health Law Certificate Program students, is taught by renown practitioners of health law and by health care professionals and executives.

A Leader in Health Care and Legal Education

Pitt's Health Law Certificate Program has the advantage of being affiliated with the world-class, comprehensive health care facilities available at the University of Pittsburgh. The Law School is only three blocks away from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center System's complex of hospitals and numerous institutes and clinics. Perhaps best known as a world leader in organ transplantation, the medical center is recognized for innovative hospital management and patient-care techniques, and for specialties including cancer research, diagnostic artificial intelligence, reproductive physiology, pain control, cardiovascular research, AIDS, and geriatrics, and many more.

Opportunities to Network


The city of Pittsburgh is host to a large number of law firms and attorneys who specialize in or have departments in health law. Students meet and network with many of these attorneys, as well as health care practitioners, lawmakers, and representatives of consumer groups, through the innovative Current Issues in Health Law course. This course is taught by health-law practitioners and helps integrate the academic and practice aspects of the program, and allows students to examine the larger issues and ramifications of the relationship between health care and law.

Skills to Enhance Any Legal Career

Students who earn Pitt Law School's Health Law Certificate will not only forge a solid foundation in health law, they build skills that are valuable in any area of legal practice. Contracts and client counseling, litigation and legal ethics, insurance law and antitrust issues, policy making and legislation--any combination of these areas can be emphasized in the highly flexible Health Law Certificate Program, depending on a particular student's interests. Each year, students in the Health Law Certificate Program have an opportunity to attend the Pennsylvania Bar Institute's two-day Health Law Institute where they have the opportunity to meet leading practitioners in health law and to obtain up-to-the-minute education in the latest topics in health law.

Students also have the opportunity to participate in the National Health Law Moot Court Competition. Competing against 26 teams around the country, Pitt Law School's 1998 Health Law Moot Court team captured first place honors and was also awarded best brief honors.

All of our prepared information about the Health Law Certificate program is on our website. However, if you have specific questions about the Health Law Certificate program that are not answered on the website, please send us e-mail at

Or contact:

Office of Admissions
University of Pittsburgh School of Law
3900 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Phone: (412) 648-1400
Please complete this online form.

Graduates of the program have obtained positions in major national law firms, nonprofit health law organizations, health care consulting firms, health care systems, and government agencies.

Graduates of the classes of 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001- the first four graduating classes of the Health Law Certificate Program - are working at:

  • Bass, Berry & Sims (Nashville)
  • Buchanan Ingersoll (Pittsburgh, London)
  • CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield (Owings Mills Maryland)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote (Pittsburgh)
  • Ernst & Young (Charleston WV, DC, Pittsburgh)
  • Kabala & Geeseman (Pittsburgh)
  • Kelley Drye & Warren (NYC)
  • Pennsylvania Supreme and Superior Courts (judicial clerkships)
  • Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe (Chicago)
  • Reed Smith Shaw & McClay (Pittsburgh)
  • Securities and Exchange Commission
  • UPMC Health System (Pittsburgh)

Students in the class of 2003 had summer jobs at

  • Adelphia Communications (Pittsburgh)
  • Dickie McCamey and Chilcote (Pittsburgh)
  • Eckert Seamons Cherin & Mellott (Pittsburgh)
  • The Executive Office of the President Office of Management & Budget Division (Washington D.C.)
  • Mercy Hospital (Pittsburgh)
  • Reed Smith (Pittsburgh)
  • Spilman Thomas and Battle (Charleston, WV)
  • Stradley Ronon Stevens and Young (Philadelphia)
  • University of Judicial Affairs Office (Pittsburgh)

There are a number of opportunities for students interested in health law to pursue this interest either through the Health Law Certificate Program or apart from it. They include the following:

Joint Degrees

Extracurricular activities

  • Health Law Society (Student Organization)