A flexible approach to the Masters of Health and Medical Law

For Tasmanian based student Rebekah McWhirter, the flexibility of the Melbourne Law Masters program has enabled her to combine her job in cancer research with further study in health and medical law.

“I took a bit of a winding route to law,” Rebekah, who is now part way through her Master in Health and Medical Law at Melbourne Law School, explains.

“My PhD was in medical history, which I enjoyed, but I found quite isolating, it’s something you do very much on your own. I wanted to do something that had a bit more of a direct societal impact.”

After going on to complete a Masters of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, Rebekah took up a postdoctoral research fellowship in cancer genetics with the Menzies Institute of Medical Research at the University of Tasmania.

“There are a lot of ethical and legal issues raised by genetic research so that’s how I initially got involved in ethical and legal research,” she says.

It was during a research collaboration project with members of the law faculty at the University of Tasmania that sparked Rebekah’s interest in taking up studies in health and medical law.

“I had my empirical research skills that I brought to the table, but I realised I needed to know more about the law to continue the collaboration and for it to be workable,” she says.

Rebekah started out doing the Graduate Diploma in Health and Medical Law before deciding to continue on with the Masters program.

“I do one subject per semester. I’m still based in Hobart, so I fly in and do an intensive for a week and then come back home and spend a couple of months writing the assignment,” she says.

The option to undertake week long intensive subjects was a drawcard for Rebekah.

“I’m a typical Tassie girl in that I’m very outdoorsy, I spent a lot of time bush walking, paddle boarding and things like that,” she says.

“I love the flexibility of being able to fly in for a week’s intensive. I find lots of people do that, in all of my classes we have people from New Zealand, Perth and all over.”

Not only has Rebekah benefited from the flexibility of the Melbourne Law Masters, her studies have also led to further publication opportunities.

“It has really contributed to my publication track record which is important to my job as a researcher. Every essay I’ve done I’ve turned into a journal article that has been published,” she says.

“I like that I can bring my empirical approach together with more doctrinal legal research methods. I really like the multidisciplinary nature of this field, it makes it really exciting to be a part of.”

By Tess McPhail

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