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Meet the Good Doctor ... and Lawyer ... and Professor

Dr. David Orentlicher is examining the intersection between medicine and policy.

Campus News  |  Feb 16, 2018  |  By UNLV News Center
man in suit outside law building

Dr. David Orentlicher combines his medical and legal training to lead UNLV's health law program at the Boyd School of Law. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Creative Services)

Editor's Note: 

The UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law and UNLV Health Law Program will host "Battling the Opioid Epidemic: Critical Insights from Healthcare and Law" on Feb. 23. Dr. David Orentlicher, codirector of the program, is spearheading the all-day event to bring a discussion of the science of addiction to public policy. 

"As political leaders look for solutions to the opioid epidemic, it is critical that they have accurate and up-to-date information on the causes of addiction and the kinds of policies that can reduce opioid abuse," Orentlicher said.

This story by Camille Cannon, originally published in UNLV Law magazine, profiles Orentlicher, one of the law school’s newest faculty members. 

Three years of sleepless nights and endless studying in law school after completing four years of sleepless nights and endless studying in medical school? It makes for professional with unique insights into the medical and legal issues our society grapples with.

Dr. David Orentlicher not only pulled off this ultra-rare MD/JD double, he did so at Harvard. 

Since securing his degrees, the new Cobeaga Law Firm Professor of Law and co-director of the health law program at the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law has built an equally impressive career as a family physician and law professional. He's also tacked on educator, state legislator, author and ethics advocate to his list of titles.

“I’ve been able to use my training in [law and medicine] to address very important issues,” Orentlicher says. 

That’s putting it humbly.   

Most recently, Orentlicher was on the faculty at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law and Indiana University School of Medicine. He’s also served as an adjunct or visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School, Northwestern University School of Medicine and Princeton University, while also finding the time to author multiple books and write for several national outlets, including The New York Times and USA Today

From 1989 to 1995, Orentlicher directed the American Medical Association’s division of medical ethics. During that time, he developed guidelines on issues such as organ transplantations, medical-care access and patients’ rights—guidelines that impacted federal decision-making. (Who can say they were sitting in the courtroom when Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor cited their brief?)  

On top of that, Orentlicher served an economically diverse district of Indiana in the state’s House of Representatives from 2002 to 2008. “I had to represent the poorest, the richest and a lot of people in between,” he says. “That made me a better legislator.” 

Orentlicher tackled Indiana’s high rate of child-abuse deaths by introducing legislation to increase the number of caseworkers who could help prevent such tragedies. He also authored bills that made it easier for Indiana-based businesses to find startup funding and that offered tax breaks to employers to make health care more affordable. 

Luckily for the Las Vegas community, Orentlicher says he sees his new job as an opportunity to extend his scholarship and public service, especially now that the UNLV School of Medicine has opened. 

“I’m looking forward to working with students and faculty at the medical school. And also with state government,” he says. “Because we’re the only law school [in Nevada], it’s an opportunity for us to have a big impact.

He teaches the law school's health legislative advocacy and drafting course. “I’ll speak with legislators and see what they would like help with and have students prepare legislation that will hopefully be introduced, and the students can then work on getting their proposals passed.”  

In addition to teaching, Orentlicher says he will continue his scholarly research on income and education inequality in America, and the actions that communities, school districts and universities can take to cultivate equality … whether students aspire to pursue one degree or two.