Brooke Silverthorn took an unconventional path to law. She went to Michigan State for a year, moved with a friend to Atlanta, joined AmeriCorps and finished her degree at Michigan State and eventually found her way to Georgia State University for law school. Now, things have come full circle for Silverthorn, who joined the College of Law on July 15 as director of the master of jurisprudence program.
The online degree is designed for early to mid-career health care professionals who do not necessarily wish to become attorneys, but need a deeper understanding of health law to advance in their careers. Georgia State Law boasts one of the top health law programs in the country, and faculty teaching M.J. courses are experts in everything from eugenics and genetics to medical billing and public health policy. Silverthorn says that the M.J. program will allow students to raise the bar for themselves.
“Law school gives you the tools you need to go out and do the good work,” she said. “Understand that when you walk out, it doesn’t stop there. Law school gave me the opportunity to figure out what was still missing from my toolbox in order to realize my goal of being the best lawyer I could be.”
Silverthorn believes that her experience on the road less traveled will allow her to help students who are forging their own path. Before coming back to the College of Law, she spent 13 years in juvenile law. She represented the Gwinnett County Department of Family & Children Services (DFACS) for eight and a half years in cases involving child removals and termination of parental rights. She also worked in Denver at the National Association of Council for Children, where she created training materials for attorneys and social workers who are representing children. While there, she taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
While teaching, Silverthorn says she had a light bulb moment. Often the most successful attorneys need knowledgeable professionals in other fields to back their cases. This is why with the M.J. program she wants to create an interdisciplinary community.
“Anytime we can get some of that interprofessional learning going, it helps us understand systems better, and it helps us understand our role in a system better,” she said.
As she works to enroll the inaugural M.J. class– she is also teaching Health Law Quality and Access in the Health Law Certificate program. She admits that calling some of her former professors, “colleague,” has been an adjustment, but it’s one she’s happy to make.
“The law has always been a closed club in a lot of ways,” Silverthorn said. “But, there are so many fields where it is critical for professionals to understand the law because they have to work within a legal framework. The health care field is so regulated. One of the things that really excites me about the M.J. program is opening up the law to other professionals who genuinely need it to excel in their roles.”
Written by Kelundra Smith