Student Spotlight June 2011
"Mark came to us with a well established reputation in health law and advocacy. His experience, passion and drive have enriched not only his class but the entire program. We're extraordinarily proud of his accomplishments in and outside the classroom."
Andrea Sinclair, Bioethics & Medical Humanities MA Program
Mark Leach, a practicing attorney at a local law firm, received his B.A., magna cum laude from Bradley University and his J.D., cum laude from Tulane Law School. Mr. Leach, a 2012 candidate for the Master’s of Arts in Bioethics program at the University of Louisville, fuses his academic research with his current law practice focusing on health care and public contract law.
Specific areas of research (how you chose this research, why it interested you):
I entered the Master’s of Arts in Bioethics program due to the ethical issues surrounding prenatal testing for chromosomal conditions, specifically Down syndrome. Prenatal testing for Down syndrome has existed for decades. Yet, studies throughout its administration have found that both physicians and patients have a poor understanding of the testing and the decisions to be made after a diagnosis and that informed consent is too often not achieved. As advances are made in the field of genetics, the potential is for most any genetic-based condition to eventually be diagnosed through prenatal testing. Considering the history and current practice of prenatal testing for Down syndrome, attention needs to be paid to how to administer prenatal testing ethically and responsibly.
What made you go into this field of study?
In 2004 my daughter was born. She is a fully-included first-grader in Jefferson County Public Schools and maintaining a B+ average on her spelling tests. She is also endowed with Down syndrome. When she was born, I knew very little about Down syndrome and could not imagine how our daily lives are today. With prenatal testing, many if not most expectant parents share that same fear of the unknown, but there are few available resources that are shared with them when a diagnosis is delivered. My academic work is focused on addressing that knowledge gap and imbalance of information.
What was your favorite part of the graduate school experience?
It took until late into the second semester, but my fellow classmates and I have started to get together regularly after classes.
What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?
Finding guidance on how to translate a degree in bioethics into opportunities with institutions and health care providers. I proactively sought out that guidance from our program’s professors.
Long term goals/ aspirations:
I would appreciate the opportunity to serve as a “utility” faculty member at a university, while remaining of counsel and maintaining my private law practice. My educational and occupational experiences would provide the opportunity to teach undergraduate and graduate courses on bioethics and disability studies; serve at the law school teaching subjects such as health law, torts, and legal professionalism; and, advise the university’s medical school and teaching hospital, to include serving on its ethics committee and advising its institutional review board.
What accomplishment, academic or otherwise, are you most proud of?
My deployment to the Middle East in the months following 9/11. I served as a Judge Advocate (JAG) in the United States Air Force. I was the only attorney for the base, which required me to handle all issues: advising on disciplining troops, negotiating contracts with local businesses, and briefing operators on the rules of engagement.
Last year, I celebrated my 10-year anniversary with my wife. We have a 6-year old daughter endowed with Down syndrome and a 5-year old son endowed with curly, blond hair. Last summer we took a Griswold family vacation across I-40, tracking historic Route 66. We had a blast, but it was made much easier than when I made the same trip as a kid, thanks to the marvel of portable DVD players.
A talent you have always wanted: Everyone who has heard me at karaoke joins me in wishing that I could sing on key.
Favorite book: Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove.
Favorite quote: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” MLK, Jr.
Role Model: William Wilberforce
Pet Peeve: The use of the “R”-word. “Retard” or “retarded” needs to go the way of the “N”-word.
If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? The same things that I’m doing while in graduate school: practicing law, volunteering with several non-profit boards, and trying to be the best family man that I can be.