Leila Barraza, J.D., MPH

Where Does Law Fit Into Public Health?

You might think there’s no connection between health care and the law. Professor Leila Barraza begs to differ.

While earning her Master of Public Health, Professor Barraza took a trip to the Arizona State Capitol, where she discovered the important connection between public health and the law. This inspired her to attend law school and earn her J.D. with a Certificate in Law, Science, and Technology. Now she teaches in the online MPH program, helping other students connect the dots between law, policy and population health.

“The most important thing I have learned is that public health is intertwined with so many other disciplines,” Professor Barraza said. “We know from the social determinants of health that many factors impact health — education, affordable and safe housing, environment and income levels, among others. If we ignore these factors, we cannot truly improve population health.”

Get out there — way out there

When Professor Barraza worked for Arizona’s Rural Health Office (now the Center for Rural Health), she made many trips into unfamiliar, rural areas of the state. “I never lived in a rural area, so meeting with rural residents one-on-one had a profound impact on how I viewed health care delivery and lack of access to health care in the U.S.”

While working with the Western Region of the Network for Public Health Law, she addressed more than 100 technical assistance requests on various public health law issues. Facing such a number and variety of health-related issues taught her that many conditions impact a community’s health. She also realized that it’s often necessary to accomplish one intervention at a time with the goal of creating a ripple effect, not an instant solution.

Your MPH degree opens many possibilities

Students earning their master’s degree in public health can have more career opportunities than they might expect. Public health careers can focus on patient care, finance and budgeting, law and policy, research and more. The options are boundless.