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Student makes the most of his Mayo-ASU adventure

July 15, 2013

Among the features of his degree program at Mayo Medical School that Layne Bettini likes best is that students are encouraged to seek academic enrichment opportunities at other universities.

Early in 2011, Bettini listened to presentations by faculty from other institutions visiting Mayo’s campus in Rochester, Minn. and he chose a collaborative field of study that suited him best: the law.

“When I was an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to be a congressional intern in Washington, D.C. and I got to see legislative hearings and work with health policy. That really piqued my interest in law. I want to practice medicine, but certainly, I hope to blend my passion for treating patients with a broader goal of helping shape health policy to provide people with maximum quality and access to health care.”

Bettini is enrolled in the M.D./J.D. program, an innovative partnership between Mayo and Arizona State University that enables students to earn medical and law degrees over the course of six years. Launched in 2005, the program has graduated eight students from ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and four other medical students, including Bettini, are on track to obtain their Juris Doctor degrees in May 2014.

Bettini, who grew up in Taos, N.M., graduated in 2010 from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor's in biology and a bachelor's in languages, summa cum laude. While in high school, Bettini was drawn to science by the enthusiasm of his physics and calculus teacher who connected him to a general surgeon to shadow over the summer.

“All through college, I knew I wanted to go into medicine. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to interview at Mayo and at several other institutions, but Mayo really stuck out. I could tell they really cared about their students and had a great overall program.

“One of the great things about Mayo is they have a pass-fail curriculum, so we’re not competing against each other for the top spot. We’re all excellent students and that gives us time to work together – it’s not the cutthroat environment some people might think medical school is.”

Mayo gives its students hands-on experience with patients from the very beginning and encourages them to give back to the community. To that end, Bettini has mentored inner-city high school students in Rochester, Minn., served on a legislation committee of a local medical society, worked with Mayo physicians to provide health care to under-insured patients, visited Latin America to survey residents about their health care systems and worked at a student-run smoking cessation clinic.

Bettini also traveled to Honduras to work with Global Bridges, a student-led global health and sustainable development organization, bringing medications to small rural communities with limited health care. Such experiences will help Bettini narrow down the field of medicine to which he will devote his life.

“Having the chance to work with patients in Honduras really opened my eyes to global health and the general well-being of patients.”

Law school normally spans three years, but the M.D./J.D. is an accelerated program of two years, and includes two rigorous summer sessions in between. That appealed to Bettini.

“It’s a great chance to save on time. In medical school, there’s a natural break in the curriculum. The first two years are spent doing basic science work and the last two are in clinical in the hospital. That natural break is the perfect time to augment your education with another degree.”

In his first year of law school, Bettini took 14 classes – Contracts; Civil Procedure; Tort Law; Legal Method and Writing; Property; Legal Advocacy; Administrative Law; Criminal Law; Health Policy and Ethics; Constitutional Law I and II; Criminal Procedure; Professional Responsibility; and Evidence. Next year, in addition to coursework, he plans to join a research cluster in the College of Law’s Public Health Law and Policy Program, and is contemplating an externship in the Healthcare Entrepreneurship Program. He also is a scholar in the Center for Law, Science & Innovation.

“I’d have to say law school is a little more challenging than I anticipated. Of course, I’ve seen the movies about how scary law school can be, and it’s really a big commitment with a lot of reading and writing. But the best part is it’s all fascinating.”

Bettini said he would recommend the Mayo-ASU M.D./J.D. program to serious students because “It gives you a great opportunity to study two very interesting fields, and the chance to work at the forefront of law and medicine.”