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Glen Cheng ’11 About to Complete J.D./M.D. Program

Since fifth grade Glen Cheng has wanted to be a doctor. Certain enough about his career path to enroll in the combined B.S./M.D. program between The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School, Cheng completed his undergraduate requirements in the allotted three years, graduating magna cum laude with a B.S in biology and a minor in philosophy.

Glen Cheng in China   
In the summer of 2006, Glen Cheng treated patients in medical clinics and implemented public health projects in China’s Yunnan Province.   
Realizing that opportunities for extensive travel would be rare once he entered medical school, and evidencing an intellectual curiosity extending beyond the life sciences, Cheng spent his third and final TCNJ year overseas – first in Tokyo and then in Oxford. “I wanted to study abroad in Japan,” he explains, “because I have had an interest in Japanese culture and had studied the language in college.” He chose Tokyo where he knew a Japanese family that would host him during his time at Waseda University.

From Japan, Cheng headed directly to the University of Oxford for the Spring 2004 semester. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to study at Oxford while studying abroad,” he says. “I grew up on C.S. Lewis books and was very excited to study him in his home city.” He also appreciated the Oxford tutorial system, which facilitates in-depth learning by pairing one student to one tutor.

It was as a student at New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) that Cheng developed an interest in public policy issues and for the first time thought about pursuing a joint M.D./J.D. program. “I have also,” he adds, “had a long interest in philosophy, and felt that a law degree would help me to think analytically and theoretically about the problems that I wanted to help tackle. I did not have a specific career goal in mind when I entered the joint degree program, but I knew that I had to at least apply to the program to explore my interests.”

The Rutgers School of Law–Newark/UMDNJ-NJMS six-year program in law and medicine is one of the few such joint degree programs in the country, so Cheng was ideally situated to begin law school. Concerned about his already substantial medical school debt, Cheng was helped in his decision by the award of a merit scholarship. At that point, he recalls, “I knew that I could not pass up this great opportunity to study law.”

Cheng had completed two years of medical school when he started law school. The joint degree program is sequenced so that a student takes off a year from medical school to finish the first year of law school, then alternates years between medical school and law school. Cheng received his M.D. from UMDNJ-NJMS in May 2009, then completed a year-long residency at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, before returning to Rutgers–Newark for his 3L year.

The joint J.D./M.D. pursuit is arduous and Cheng will be the first student to have completed the Rutgers/UMDNJ-NJMS program. “The demands of both schools were rigorous and I lost a fair bit of sleep,” Cheng admits. Most challenging, he says, “was switching my mode of thinking from medicine to law each year.” And most rewarding? It was “to be able to study in diverse disciplines and to really enjoy the full experience. I feel that I have been given a lot by my professors, and I appreciated the unique opportunities from both schools.”

Cheng has been an editor of the Rutgers Law Review and a member of the Intellectual Property Law Society. Last summer he worked in the pharmaceutical patent litigation practice of Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto. He is the author of the 2008 Rutgers Law Review note “Caring for New Jersey’s Children with Autism: A Multifaceted Struggle for Parity” and the 2009 Environmental Claims Journal article “Legislation Without Implementation: Mandatory Lead Paint Hazard Inspection and Remediation of Housing Rented in New Jersey.”

As a medical student, Cheng was a co-author of several articles published in peer-reviewed medical journals, spent one summer at the National Institutes of Health studying the healthcare benefits of low-income employees, and another in Yunnan Province with the China Primary Health Care Foundation. Working in remote mountain villages without running water and electricity, he trained farmers in basic medical diagnosis, public health measures, and preventive medicine so the villages could become more self-sufficient in improving local health conditions.


I feel that I have been given a lot by my professors, and I appreciated the unique opportunity from both schools.

Back at Rutgers Law School last fall and taking Clinical Professor John Kettle’s Copyright and Trademark class, Cheng learned about a scholarship and publishing opportunity offered by the Entertainment, Arts & Sports Law Section of the New York State Bar Association. He also learned that the current copyright law scheme is unable to provide copyright protection to many artists who create works of modern art. Cheng chose as his writing competition topic “Copyright and Modern Art: A Readymade Solution” because “I have always had an interest in the philosophy of art, particularly the question of how to define an artwork (as opposed to a ‘mere’ object). A major reason many modern artworks are not copyrightable is because they have a useful function other than to be displayed as artworks. For example, Marcel Duchamp’s ‘In Advance of the Broken Arm’ is an artwork that consists of an ordinary snow shovel laid against the wall of an art gallery.” 

Cheng’s paper argues that all art should be copyrightable, since the federal copyright statute was designed to protect works of art. “But to be fair to all parties,” he says, “my paper proposes that an exception be added to the Copyright Act to allow for manufacturers of useful articles, such as snow shovels, to continue to manufacture and sell their articles without fear of infringing a copyrighted shovel-as-artwork that looks identical to their own.” As a winner of the 2010 Phil Cowan Memorial/BMI Scholarship competition, the paper will be published this spring in the EASL Journal.

Asked if after six years in the J.D./M.D. program he has come to prefer one discipline over the other, Cheng answers: “That is a difficult question. I am very grateful for being able to study both law and medicine, and I intend to use my medical background throughout my legal career. I’ve heard a lot of lawyers say that law school teaches you to think within a completely new framework, and it’s true. I doubt that I would be able to appreciate policy concerns, ethical considerations, and principles of justice as much had I not come to law school.”

Following his May 2011 graduation, Cheng will clerk for the Honorable Robert B. Kugler, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.