Leslie Wolf, interim dean of the College of Law, says reading about the birth of Louise Joy Brown made her want to pursue a career in bioethics. Brown was born on July 25, 1978 and became the world’s first test tube baby. Wolf came across an interview in the Boston Globe where George Annas, a health law professor at Boston University, commented on the moral implications of what is now known as in vitro fertilization.
“I was definitely interested in science but thought it was important to think about what we ought to be doing with our technology and science,” Wolf recalled. “I knew I wasn’t going to be a doctor, and the fact that a lawyer was called to comment on these issues stood out to me.”
Wolf went on to graduate from Harvard Law School, and, after clerking for the Massachusetts Appeals Court, her practice included environmental coverage litigation and patent litigation. As a young attorney, she prepared witnesses for a high-stakes insurance liability case—a first glimpse that she might like teaching. Then, an opportunity came along to do a fellowship in bioethics and health policy at Johns Hopkins. As she puts it, “I went from being an associate at a law firm with an office overlooking San Francisco Bay, and having a secretary and paralegal to help me do my work, to sharing a cubicle with three other people.”
She never looked back and immersed herself in bioethics and public health research. She came to the College of Law in 2007 and is also the director of the Center for Law, Health & Society. She says that what appealed to her about Georgia State Law is that she felt like she would have colleagues that respected her non-traditional work and have a chance to do meaningful work.
“All of our faculty are truly engaged in work that has implications for the real world,” said Wolf. “While they may be laying out legal frameworks in traditional legal scholarship, they’re also looking at how this makes a difference to the profession and how laws are implemented. It’s why I gravitated to law—we are problem solvers.”
One problem that she and professors Paul Lombardo and Courtney Anderson are working to solve is the issue of diversity in bioethics. They received a Greenwall Foundation grant to create a bioethics course for undergraduates in the Georgia State Honors College that focuses on the experiences of diverse populations and the work of minority bioethics scholars. The goal is to show how bioethics is relevant to diverse communities in hopes that the course will inspire students of color to use bioethics in future education or work. Students will be able to take the course in spring 2020.
“If I had one piece of advice for students, it would be don’t close yourself off to opportunities because you don’t think it’s your path,” said Wolf. “When I was in law school at Harvard, I didn’t go out for law review because I “knew” that I wasn’t going to be an academic. Although I was wrong about my ultimate career, my experience also suggests there is more than one path.”
As interim dean, Wolf says she plans to build upon the momentum started by Provost Wendy Hensel, who was dean of the College of Law for two years. The school’s immigration clinic will open in January, and Wolf expects continued growth in its legal analytics, entertainment law and experiential learning programs.
“I am proud to serve the College of Law because I share its commitment to providing a great education at an affordable price to a diverse student body,” said Wolf. “I will also be working with my colleagues to continue to innovate so our students are prepared to embark on careers in an ever-evolving profession.”