February 09, 2004

LeBlang to lead American College of Legal Medicine

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Theodore R. LeBlang, professor and chair of the Department of Medical Humanities at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, will become president of the American College of Legal Medicine in March.

LeBlang is also a professor at SIUC's law school, and co-director of the M.D./J.D. dual degree program. In January, after 22 years as editor of the Journal of Legal Medicine, LeBlang stepped down to become editor emeritus of the internationally respected quarterly journal.

"It has been a very exciting and enriching experience for more than two decades," LeBlang said. "While I will miss my work as editor, more significantly, I will miss working with the dynamic group of scholars and authors who have contributed manuscripts throughout the years.

"But the opportunity to lead the American College of Legal Medicine at a time when there are many critical issues arising at the interface of law and medicine is an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime," he said.

The University has a six-year professional program that trains students in law and medicine and leads to acquiring both degrees. Acquiring both degrees is becoming more common, said LeBlang. There are about 15 programs offering dual-degree programs nationwide and LeBlang continues to receive calls from other schools expressing interest in offering similar programs.

"There is an increasingly interested group of undergraduate students who are committed to a career in medicine but who see the many ways that law is affecting medical practice today," LeBlang said. "Accordingly, they would like to get a law degree to complement their medical skills and training. This will allow them to better address these issues within the framework of organized medicine, such as the American Medical Association or other specialty organizations, as well as in their day-to-day interaction with patients.

"It helps them be better patient advocates and to look at issues that are quite compelling from a medical-social standpoint, such as issues of access to health care, lack of insurance or under-insurance, and prescription medicine for the elderly."

There are now 10 students enrolled in the dual-degree program at SIU, which started in 1989 and saw its first graduate in 1995.

The American College of Legal Medicine was founded in 1960 and the organization is comprised of physicians, attorneys, and dual-degree professionals "who are committed to addressing issues where law and medicine converge," LeBlang said.

LeBlang has been serving as the organization's president-elect since March 2003.

A graduate of Pennsylvania State University and the University of Illinois College of Law, LeBlang was legal counsel to the SIU School of Medicine from 1975 through 1992.