Physician, Navy Veteran Enrolls in JDi Program to Add Lawyer to Her Accomplishments

Amanda Higginson Portrait

Amanda Higginson, M.D., L’25 has wanted to go to law school since she took a civics class as a teenager. But first, she had to check off some other items on her long list of accomplishments: attending Brown University, serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, where she was twice deployed; medical school back at Brown, followed by a medical residency at what is now Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda; working as an academic general pediatrician, and currently serving as the associate dean for student affairs at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. If that isn’t enough, she is also married to Jason Higginson, M.D., a neonatologist and captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and has two children, ages 15 and 10.

Higginson’s path to law school certainly had twists and turns, but she got there. After separating from the Navy in 2013, she had her GI bill for further education. So, when her husband returned in 2021 from a year-long deployment, she knew the time was right to pursue law school options.

Amanda and classmates walk to dinner during the residency in Denver, Colorado in January 2024
Amanda and her classmates walk to dinner after class during the arbitration residency in Denver, Colorado

“I researched several law schools, but the Syracuse Law JDinteractive Program (JDi) was the only one that fit my needs,” says Higginson, who lives in Greenville, North Carolina. “The hybrid online program allows me to take night classes at a pace that works with my job and family commitments.”

Higginson is impressed with how the JDi program operates and says the setup feels like she’s attending “traditional” law school. She has high praise for her professors, particularly Professor Robert G. Nassau, who is the director of the Sherman F. Levey Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.

Amanda Higgison takeover screenshots. Left Amanda holds a puppy, middle Amanda speaks to the camera, right photo of a computer  during an online class.
Click the image to view Amanda’s Day-In-The-Life of a JDi Student takeover on Instagram.

“I never thought I would have loved tax law and then gone back to take gift and estate tax law, but having such a dedicated professor who is so invested in student learning is such a gift,” she says. “And, the work Professor Nassau does in the tax clinic to help those in need speaks to my background in caring for others.”

Higginson is also involved with the Betty and Michael D. Wohl Veterans Legal Clinic, overseen by Executive Director and Professor Elizabeth G. Kubala. Higginson enjoys the work helping veterans, particularly older individuals, access legal services and obtain benefits earned through their military service.

In 2022, Higginson’s hard work earned her a scholarship from the Tillman Foundation, which supports active military, veterans and spouses in memory of Patrick Tillman, a U.S. Army Ranger killed in Afghanistan in 2004.

Tillman Scholars Bill Rielly, Amanda Higginson and Natasha DeLeon at Pat's Run
Tillman Scholars and College of Law students Bill Rielly L’23, Amanda Higginson L’25, and Natasha DeLeon L’25 in Tempe, Arizona for Pat’s Run in April 2023.

Even though the JDi program takes place online, Higginson feels the comradery of working with other law students in the program, including her “JDi bestie,” Chezelle McDade L’25, who has supported her through her studies. Higginson has also enjoyed attending six residency programs in person, which cover a range of legal topics and allow the opportunity to meet other students, faculty and alumni face-to-face.

Amanda and classmates pose for a photo in front of the Sherman & Howard sign during a residency in Denver
Amanda and her classmates pose for a photo in front of the Sherman & Howard sign during the arbitration residency in Denver, Colorado

Despite juggling career, family and law school, Higginson is thriving and knows that a law degree from Syracuse will help her continue to assist others by ensuring that their medical needs are met and that they know their rights and where to turn if in need of legal assistance.

“I don’t have any intention of changing careers. I love my work in medicine, but having a law degree gives me much more depth and insight into both the clinical and administrative work that I do,” she says. “I’m a lifelong learner at heart, and Syracuse Law’s JDi program has made this possible for me.”