“I use the law every day in my practice, especially when I review consents for surgery,” says Cozanne Brent, a 43 year-old pediatric surgery nurse at the University of Maryland Medical Center whose patients are often infants in need of high-risk, complicated heart surgery to survive.
Legal hurdles and medical crises have been intertwined throughout Brent’s career, but she was especially moved when she saw a family friend die of a rare disease because his insurance company refused to pay for his participation in a clinical trial at an out-of-network hospital—a trial that had already saved one of her own patients. Brent had fought hard to get her friend enrolled in the study, but ultimately, as she says, “I was defeated by a legal process.”
Today, Brent is one of 29 professionals –including another nurse and an emergency room physician--whose work intersects so often with legal issues that they are all pursuing a master of science in law (MSL), a new degree from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.
The program is not just for health care providers. Brent’s other classmates include a mathematician from the US Department of Defense, several human resource professionals and a U.S. Marine with experience on Capitol Hill. Some want legal knowledge to improve their performance at a current job; others are hoping to pivot to new careers. All of them have chosen one of the MSL’s five specializations--in health, environmental or patent law as well as crisis management or cybersecurity.
A member of the Maryland Nurses Association, Brent already holds a BS in nursing and is certified to practice in an operating room and provide advanced cardiac life support to adults and children. “But I want to be a more effective advocate for patients,” she says. She believes the MSL will give her the tools to do that.
“First semester was awesome,” reports Brent, who with her classmates has completed core courses in US legal systems, legal methods and legal research. “The academics were challenging, eye opening and provided exactly the foundation I needed. “
Although classes are taught at the University of Maryland in College Park, faculty from Maryland Carey Law, in Baltimore, teach the courses and run the program. “This is not a J.D.," notes Maryland Carey Law Dean Donald Tobin, “It’s a new degree for professionals who need legal knowledge to pursue their career goals.”
The College Park location is key, however. “Our classes are accessible to professionals working in Washington or its suburbs in Prince Georges or Montgomery Counties,” points out Jose Bahamonde-Gonzalez, the law school’s associate dean for professional education. Students working in Baltimore can hop a University bus to their classes in College Park.
“I couldn’t do the program without the shuttle,” notes Brent, who lives in Bel Air, north of Baltimore. “The program has been even better than I had anticipated,” she adds. “And it’s incredibly interesting.”