Prof. Miller celebrates 40th year teaching health law at BU
When Professor of Law Emerita Frances H. Miller began teaching health law at Boston University School of Law in 1971, Richard M. Nixon was president, gas cost 36 cents a gallon, and Intel was just rolling out a first-of-its-kind gadget called a single chip processor.
A lot has changed over the years, both in health law and in BU’s health law program. But a constant has been Miller, whose leadership, scholarship and love of teaching have helped shaped generations of lawyers and the health law program itself, now considered one of the finest in the country. This year marks her 40th anniversary at BU teaching health law.
Miller, a BU Law graduate, is a national authority on health law. A past Fulbright Scholar and Kellogg Foundation Fellow, she has written widely for law review publications and medical journals on health care policy, antitrust in the health sector, and food and drug law. She has also served on numerous boards, councils and advisory panels.
But it is her love of teaching that keeps her returning to the classroom each year, to the good fortune of her students. This fall, she is teaching Food and Drug Law, a particularly strong area of interest for her.
“I like people and I love my subject matter,” said Miller. “In health law, I particularly care very much about what our health system looks like. It’s so complicated and complex that helping young lawyers really understand it is very important because we have to have people in positions of leadership who are going to be able to fix it. That’s the issue I care about most—making things better.”
Despite many changes in the classroom—especially the incorporation of technology—Miller says the kind of students who are drawn to study law has remained consistent.
“Students are still the most wonderful, most idealistic, nicest people in the world,” she said. “They care about the bigger issues, they’re other-directed, and they look at the whole, not just at the parts. They might be a little more conservative today than when I first started, but their idealism is unchanged.”
Health law, on the other hand, has changed dramatically. “I probably teach nothing now that I taught 40 years ago,” she said. “The law applicable to the health sector has evolved so rapidly.”
Miller continues to have a strong interest in food and drug law and notes that more than a dozen BU Law alumni currently work for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, evidence of the school’s influence there and of the willingness of alumni to help launch the careers of others. In fact, the FDA’s recently named deputy commissioner for global regulatory operations and policy, Deborah Autor, is a ’92 graduate.
Miller splits her teaching time between BU in the fall and the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the spring. For each of the past 10 summers, she has attended a fiction-writing camp, honing the craft of composing personal essays and enjoying the “indulgence” of writing without footnotes.
She takes great pride in her role in transforming the law school’s health law offerings into the well-known program it is today.
“The law school gave me a free hand to do whatever I needed to develop the Health Law Concentration,” she said, noting, as an example, the school’s acquisition of the American Journal of Law & Medicine at her recommendation. “I’m very grateful that the school had the openness and willingness to trust that I knew what I was doing in building a program that would prepare our students to be effective health law advocates and change agents for the complexities of 21st-century health care.”