As a science geek with a passion for exploring theories, health law was a natural fit for professor Fazal Khan.
Khan was a pre-med student at the University of Chicago when a logic course piqued his interest in the legal perspective. This resulted in him signing up for more philosophy courses and eventually seeking out an institution where he could earn both medical and law degree degrees.
“I always had the research bug,” Khan said. “However, I ultimately chose law and policy over the laboratory setting because it allows me to explore a wider variety of areas and theories whereas research medicine is more of a focused discipline.”
Despite choosing to practice law, Khan always has maintained his interest in the medical field and now uses his unique position of being trained in both to serve as somewhat of a go-between.
“Everyone is affected by health care and health law, and a lot of these issues truly concern life and death,” he said.
One area Khan is currently applying a legal perspective to is epigenetics, the study of how environmental influences can leave marks on DNA and modify the expression of genes. Examples include plastic in bottles, stress, diet, military service in a war, etc.-and how that might affect not only the person being exposed, but their children and future generations.
Khan is currently part of a team that was awarded a three-year National Institutes of Health grant to create an interdisciplinary center on the ethical, legal and social implications of epigenetics research. One of the primary legal consultants for
the center, he will explore how epigenetic findings can influence law and public policy.
“The implications of epigenetics are far ranging and can affect the way we think about product safety, environmental regulation, affirmative action and wars,” Khan said. “Questions that have arisen out of this rapidly developing field include ‘How do we develop policies to avoid the harms associated with epigenetic risk?’ and ‘Should we even attempt to do that?’ ”
Another area Khan is applying his dual knowledge to is the court system.
“I want to research whether or not there is a need to create health courts for medically complicated cases where the jury would be composed of experts who are well versed in a specific area of medicine,” Khan said.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. He also is looking into the reform of the American health care system and the effect of globalization on health care. His desire to be involved in research is what led him to UGA in 2006.
“I wanted a new challenge and wanted to be able to focus on the topics I was passionate about,” he said.
At the law school, Khan teaches courses in health law, health policy, bioethics and international products liability.
“As a teacher, I enjoy bringing a variety of research into the classroom and making it relevant for my students,” he said. “I often hear from students who have graduated about how taking one of my health law courses altered their career path for the better. There is no greater feeling as an educator than to know that you are having a lasting, positive impact on your students.”
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law
B.A., University of Chicago, 1995
J.D., University of Illinois, 2000
M.D., University of Illinois, 2003
At UGA: Four years