William Sage, MD, JD

Professor of Law

William Sage

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question”
    -- E.E. Cummings, 1938

Get to Know Dr. William Sage

What drew you to the law?

The possibility of improving health and health care for many people at once.  Medical training focuses on helping individual patients; public policy (like biomedical research) can magnify that effect.  I have an optimistic view of the law as bringing out the best of human nature, helping us work together and resolve our differences peaceably and predictably.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

When students realize that professional formation is about learning together—and that they can contribute as well as receive insights or information.  Recently, one of the world’s leading authorities on health policy co-taught a Zoom class with me from his home in Massachusetts (the ease of hosting guests being the best thing about Zoom).  When asked what he said was a “great question,” he admitted he didn’t know the answer. It was an empowering moment for the students.

What do you hope students gain from your courses?

The skills and confidence to ask the right questions and to work toward answering them.  The self-awareness and the humility to become happy, productive members of a self-governing profession that bears considerable responsibility for the welfare of individuals and communities and nations.

What did you do prior to entering academia?

I worked as a physician-in-training in San Diego and Baltimore, and as a young corporate lawyer in Los Angeles.  After I drank from the fire hose of health policy while working briefly in the White House during the national health reform efforts of the early 1990s, I was hooked on improving health care through research, advising, and teaching.

What are you passionate about outside of the law?

Learning new things, including from my artistic young-adult children.  I enjoy running (though hip replacements ended my marathon career after 15 races), and friendly games of golf and tennis.  I spend a lot of time in coastal New England.

What are your research interests?

My current work emphasizes the importance of principle and ethics to health system improvement, including health equity and access, health care value and efficiency, health professions education and practice, and biomedical innovation.  I have a very good track record of framing issues and anticipating debates before they become widely visible, and of assisting others in academic, governmental, scientific, and policy settings with work that might have public benefit.

Publications

Link to my publications.

Presentations

Link to my presentations.

Expertise

  • Health Law
  • Regulatory Theory
  • Antitrust
  • Professional Responsibility
  • Academic Experience

    Texas A&M University (2022-present)
    • Professor of Law, School of Law
    • Professor of Medicine (Department of Translational Science), School of Medicine
    • Professor (by courtesy) of Government and Public Service, The Bush School of Government & Public Service
    • Assistant Vice President, Health Science Center
    • Founding director, Institute for Health Care Access (under development)
    University of Texas at Austin (2006-2022)
    • James R. Dougherty Chair for Faculty Excellence, School of Law
    • Professor of Surgery and Perioperative Care, Dell Medical School
    • Vice Provost for Health Affairs (2006-2013)
    Columbia University
    • Professor of Law (2001-2006)
    • Associate Professor of Law (1995-2001)

    Visiting Professorships and Other Teaching Positions
    • New York University School of Law and Dept. of Population Health, School of Medicine (2019-2020)
    • Emory Law School (Spring 2018)
    • Yale Law School (Spring 2013)
    • Harvard Law School (Fall 2007)
    • University of Texas School of Law (2005-2006)
    • Duke University School of Law (Spring 2001)
    • Université Paris Descartes (professeur invite, faculté de droit, 2013-2017)
    • University of Minnesota Law School/School of Public Health (visiting scholar, Fall 2003)
    • Tokyo University Law Faculty (Columbia Law School exchange program, October 1997)
    • Leyden-Amsterdam-Columbia Summer Program in American Law (July 1997)
    • USC School of Medicine (adjunct faculty, 1991-95)
    • UCLA School of Medicine (adjunct faculty, 1991-92)

    Education

    Docteur honoris causa, Université Paris Descartes, 2011

    M.D. with research honors in anesthesia and critical care medicine, Stanford University, 1988
    • Alumni Scholar

    J.D. with distinction, Stanford University, 1988
    • Order of the Coif
    • Note editor, Stanford Law Review

    A.B., Harvard College, magna cum laude in biochemical sciences, 1982
    • Phi Beta Kappa
    • John Harvard Scholar

    Awards / Honors

  • Elected Member, National Academy of Medicine (formerly Institute of Medicine)
  • Elected Fellow, The Hastings Center on Bioethics
  • Elected Fellow, New York Academy of Medicine
  • Elected Member, The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas
  • Eminent Scholar, Hagler Institute for Advanced Study, Texas A&M University (2017-18)
  • Honorary Member, Delta Omega National Public Health Honor Society (Alpha Tau Chapter)
  • Honorary Fellow, American College of Legal Medicine
  • Other Professional Activities

    Non-Academic Employment

    Health Care Working Group Cluster Leader, President's Task Force on Health Care Reform, The White House (1993)

    Associate, Corporations Department, O'Melveny & Myers (1990-93; 1993-95)

    Resident in Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, The Johns Hopkins Hospital (1989-90)

    Advisory Boards and Community Service
    • Editorial Board, Health Affairs (1998-)
    • Board on Health Care Services, National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (2017-)
    • Fellows Council, The Hastings Center (2007-12)
    • Children’s Optimal Health (nonprofit GIS mapping) (chair, 2015-19; vice chair, 2008-15)
    • ChangeLab Solutions (Public Health Law & Policy) Board of Directors (2009-17)
    • Code Red Task Force on the Uninsured in Texas (2007-15)
    • Conseil scientifique, Institut Droit et Sante, Universite de Paris V (2007-16)
    • National Advisory Council, National Center on Medical-Legal Partnership (2019-)
    • Partners in Austin Transforming Health (PATH) (steering committee, 2015-)
    • Policy Committee, Collaborative on Accountability and Improvement (co-chair, 2016-19)
    • Program Committee, Health Professions Interest Group, National Academy of Medicine (2016-)
    • Nat’l Advisory Committee, RWJF National Policy and Legal Advisory Network (2008-17)
    • Editorial Board, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality WebM&M/PSNet (2009-14)
    • Steering Committee, Clinical Education Center at University Medical Center/Brackenridge (2007-10)