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Experiencing public health law first hand

The University of Tulsa College of Law makes externships available to 2L and 3L students with partners across the country. Offering meaningful lawyering and professional experiences, externships are a vital component in getting students ready for practice.

Tall woman with long blonde hair, arms crossed, wearing a black blazer, standing outdoors
Morgan Jones

This spring semester, Morgan Jones is spending her final semester of law school externing for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Under normal circumstances, this externship would have seen Jones living in Atlanta. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Jones is carrying out her duties remotely.

Health equity

Jones’s externship with the CDC is in line with the reason she decided to attend law school. “After graduating with a BS in psychology from Oklahoma State University, I considered going to medical school or pursuing a graduate degree in health psychology,” Jones said. “I ultimately chose the law school route so that I could study health policy and learn to use the law to make health care more equitable and improve public health.”

In particular, Jones is interested in equitable pain management and social determinants of health, noting, “I have seen firsthand the disproportionate health impacts on vulnerable populations in my community and how lack of accessibility hurts disabled populations.” TU Law’s strength in health law plus generous scholarship assistance convinced her that this was the place to get the training required to meet her goals.

Legal epidemiology

For her externship, Jones is building on knowledge she gained in the classroom through projects with the CDC’s Public Health Law Program (PHLP). In particular, this externship is helping her develop skills that are required in the emerging field of legal epidemiology, the basis of which entails treating laws and policies as variables that impact health.

Jones’s work with the CDC has required her to work collaboratively with staff attorneys on various projects, including COVID-19 executive orders, pregnancy discrimination laws and parsing through legislation, rules and session laws to identify subject changes in mental health law over time. In addition, Jones has been able to develop a legal epidemiology research project of her own focused on equitable opioid prescribing.



Besides the experiential learning derived such undertakings, Jones has been able to take part – via Zoom – in the PHLP’s trainings, which happen at least once a week. These have addressed an array of topics, including public health law, health equity, tribal public health law, environmental public health law, legal writing for public health audiences, and crisis and emergency risk communication. Jones also emphasized “the great networking and professional relationships I have gained through this externship.”

A community of support

Now that she is on the brink of graduating and starting her career in public health law, Jones is also taking time to reflect on her three-year law school journey.

“I’ve been so impressed by the faculty and staff here at TU Law,” Jones remarked. “To begin with, their ‘open door policy’ and the way they all make themselves so available has been so beneficial. Because of my areas of scholarly and professional interest, two professors – Matt Lamkin and Aila Hoss — have really stood out. Professor Lamkin has a great sense of humor and truly cares about his students. I have taken torts, medical malpractice liability and bioethics with him. I know it sounds a bit unbelievable to some, but his two-hour torts classes just flew by! Even though I am no longer taking courses with him, I am fortunate that Professor Lamkin is my faculty mentor.”

In addition to her CDC externship, during her final year Jones is working as a research assistant for Hoss, a health law and Indian law expert who joined the TU Law faculty in 2020. Rachel Baker (JD ’12), associate dean and director of professional development, knew of Jones’s interest in health law and therefore recommended her for Hoss’s research position.

“Morgan is an exceptional researcher, thanks in large part to her attention to detail and curiosity about the unintended consequences of law’s impact on health,” Hoss remarked. “I started my career at the CDC’s Public Health Law Program and it was an invaluable experience. I am excited to see how Morgan uses this work after graduation.”

Together, Hoss and Jones have investigated public health law, legal epidemiology, policy development and Indian law. For their most recent project, the duo conducted a legal mapping study on state water safety laws and policies. Now, she is helping Hoss write an article about tribal vaccine mandates, which will be published later this year, timed perfectly to coincide with the beginning of her undoubtedly brilliant career.

TU Law helps students land externship opportunities from one end of the country to the other. Find out more about this outstanding preparation for legal practice.

Outstanding Teachers selected for devotion to students and mentoring

Collins Professor of Computer Information Systems Lori Leonard, Stanley Rutland Professor of American History Andrew Wood and Associate Professor of Law Matt Lamkin are TU’s Outstanding Teachers for 2020. Their devotion to teaching and mentoring molds the character and work ethic of students, preparing them for successful careers and lives.

The university inaugurated the Distinguished Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1980. Honorees may receive the award once in a lifetime, and only three awards are given annually. The award is especially meaningful because it must be initiated by a student’s nomination, and the winners are selected by colleagues who serve on the Faculty Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate. Each honoree receives a medal and a stipend.

Matt Lamkin

outstanding teachersSince joining the College of Law faculty in 2013, Lamkin has earned the praise and admiration of his students. He has been recognized by students for his outstanding teaching every semester he has taught in the TU College of Law, translating to many awards. In his first two years at TU and again in 2018-2019, students voted to recognize Lamkin with the College of Law Outstanding First Year Professor Award. In 2015-16, he was honored as the Outstanding Upper-Class Professor.

Lamkin’s teaching philosophy is “driven by a desire to teach his students critical skills that will endure beyond their recollection of any particular law school subject matter.” He achieves this by teaching analysis and argument and helping students engage with the course materials in effective ways.

Student Comments:

  • “Helped me with my writing ability and had a continuing conversation about my paper and what I needed to do to write a paper effectively.”
  • “Professor Lamkin always made himself available for us to meet with him and was always very helpful and provided bonus sessions, which were a huge help to preparing for the exam. I also enjoyed the ‘life lesson’ talks he would give on occasion; they were an encouragement to me.”
  • “This has been my favorite class so far. I really like it that Lamkin takes his time to explain the different concepts. It’s useful when we move on to the next topic and they correlate.”

Lori Leonard

outstanding teachersWith over 25 years of teaching experience, Leonard has called TU home for the past 21 years. Beyond the lives she’s impacted along the way, she has even more to show for her time as a professor. In total, she’s collected 15 teacher awards, one Mayo Teaching Excellence Award from the Collins College of Business, two Most Valuable Professor awards and one mention as an Exceptional Mentor.

Course evaluations and student comments reinforce the care and concern that Leonard gives her students to ensure they thrive as professionals. She advises approximately 15 students every semester for enrollment while also mentoring many in the computer information systems major. Many TU students are on campus, at least partially, because of Leonard. Until she became associate dean of the Graduate School, she was heavily involved in meeting with prospective undergraduates. Now she continues to meet with prospective graduate students.

Student Comments:

  • “I absolutely would not be where I am today without your impactful mentorship and considerate advice.”
  • “Thank you for being such an influential person, not only in my life, but in the lives of so many others! The thoughtfulness and care you exude for your students does not go unnoticed!
  • “I still am grateful you fit me (a junior…who was having a mid-life crisis at 21) into your schedule to talk about what CIS was.”

Andrew Wood

outstanding teachersWith a TU tenure of over 20 years, Wood is dedicated to the instruction of diverse material. He largely teaches general education block courses with international and cross-cultural influences that provide a well-rounded, college-level liberal arts education. As a passionate, committed and experienced professor, Wood deploys a variety of pedagogical techniques including dynamic lecture mixed with Socratic Method, humor, music, film, discussion groups, class presentations, posters, field research and various online web interventions/engagements.

In the classroom, Wood focuses on fostering fundamental critical thinking skills, a curiosity about the world and an active concern for basic democratic values. In course evaluation comments, students frequently commend Wood’s subject knowledge, engaging presentation style and sense of humor, as well as his clear and supportive explanations and assignment feedback.

Student Comments:

  • “In my three years at The University of Tulsa, I have yet to encounter a more dedicated, hard-working or caring professor as Dr. Wood.”
  • “I have constantly been impressed by his dedication to making history come alive in the classroom and impressing on his students the importance of studying the history of those who have been oppressed and forgotten in history.”
  • “Very knowledgeable and his investment in the class motivated the students to want to learn.”