One of the most humbling and rewarding duties of the Chair of the Health Law Section is to deliver the State of the Section address to the attendees at the Section’s premier live program “Emerging Issues in Healthcare Law.” This year the program was held in the beautiful Roosevelt Hotel in historic New Orleans, Louisiana. It was particularly a distinct pleasure to give the address not far from the place that I addressed the student body of Benjamin Franklin High School in 19?? (not giving away my age) as the outgoing President of the Student Government Association (having ascended to President when the elected president accepted an internship in Washington D.C. mid-way through our Senior year). The two speeches were very different, but the audience was not so different when I realized the talent, intellect, and leadership of the people in attendance. Both times I felt completely honored to be able to stand before the group.
As a Section, we continually strive to meet your needs and fulfill our Mission Statement:
“The ABA Health Law Section is dedicated to enhancing the practice of health lawyers and improving the understanding and development of health laws.”
It is important to us that you feel you are receiving the very best value for your investment in the Section. I wanted to share with all of you the address I gave to the attendees on March 9, 2017.
What a year to be a health lawyer! What an amazing year to be Chair of the Health Law Section (the best section in the ABA). I am happy to report that the Section is doing well and being your voice in the health law bar on the national scene.
Under the leadership of Eugene Holmes, The Walt Disney Company, Burbank, CA, our Section’s Budget Officer, the Section is in good shape and healthy from a monetary perspective. We have an amazing staff who carefully watch expenses but also know when it’s time to spend money to benefit our current members and bring new members into the Section.
Under the fine leadership of Jeff Calk, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP Nashville, TN and Sean McKenna, Greenberg Traurig LLP, Dallas, TX, Co-Chairs of Membership, we have a healthy membership of around 11,000 members. The committee is being innovative in ways to attract new members and retain current ones. We have seen exponential growth in our law student membership. These fine students are the future of our Section. I am extremely proud to recognize the law students from my alma mater, Mississippi College School of Law and Professor Jonathan Will, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Faculty Development Professor of Law, and Founding Director of the Bioethics & Health Law Center. The students have been a tremendous help this week during the conference. The Section was pleased to offer two scholarships to deserving students who show promise in the health law field to attend EMI: Caroline Smith from the Mississippi College School of Law and Andres Gonzalez from the University of Hawaii, William S. Richardson School of Law. We are also proud to present the award to the law student writing competition winner, Faraz Siddiqui of Howard University School of Law for his paper entitled “Balancing Health Privacy Law with Emerging Healthcare Innovation.”
It is good to know that we practice in a field that is recession proof, but who knew how important health law would be on the national front this year? Our Health Law and Policy Coordinating Committee, under the leadership of Joe Geraci, Husch Blackwell LLP, Austin, TX and Linda Malek, Moses & Singer LLP, New York, NY have done a fantastic job watching for opportunities to provide comments on proposed rules and regulations and preparing to address potential changes affecting our clients. The Committee prepared Resolution 116 on Precision Medicine that passed the ABA House of Delegates at the Mid-Year meeting in February. We also created the Health Reform Task Force after the election, co-chaired by Denise Hanna, Locke Lord LLP, Washington, D.C., Tom Dowdell, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP, Washington, D.C. and Colin Roskey, Alston & Bird, Washington, DC in order to be on the forefront of policy as Congress is meeting and considering major changes to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Our Programs Executive Committee, under the leadership of Denise Glass, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP Dallas, TX and Tommy Smith, Manchester University College of Pharmacy, Ft. Wayne, IN has exploded this year with opportunities to extend the reach of our live programs. The Washington Health Law Summit in December, co-chaired by Kathy Poppitt, King & Spalding LLP, Austin, TX and Joe Geraci, tied our all-time attendance record and had the distinct opportunity to be carried live on C-SPAN. Our Emerging Issues in Healthcare Law conference, co-chaired by Jay McEniry, Consors Consulting, Fairhope, AL and Diane Carter, Husch Blackwell LLP, Austin, TX, also reached record attendance and had over 50 first time attendees. The Section co-sponsored a free CLE webinar on the Opioid Crisis that had over 900 attendees.
The Section had the distinct opportunity to recommend health law leaders to be appointed to the founding board of the National Board of Trial Attorneys Health Law Certification Board. Bill Horton, Jones Walker LLP, Birmingham, AL was named the Founding President of the Board. The Board’s goal is to establish a certification program in health law within a year. This will include establishing the guidelines for becoming certified and drafting the certification test.
The Section’s Interest Groups are doing phenomenal work in their efforts to provide substantive content to help their members deliver the best possible guidance for their clients. Go to the Section’s website to see their work at http://ambar.org/health.
We have a history of great chairs of the Section who have remained active and involved in Section affairs. This year, we created the Past Chairs’ Advisory Board to assist the Chair and the Director with the direction of the Section as it continues to grow and evolve.
We have entered into several Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with various groups in the health law space to better assist our members meet their clients’ needs. These MOUs are with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) and the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). The collaboration with these groups has produced new programs and interaction that has benefited all involved.
One of the initiatives started by former chair Michael Clark - Duane Morris LLP, Houston, TX and continued by my predecessor, Bill Horton, is in the area of Military and Veterans’ Affairs. Current ABA President Linda Klein challenged the Sections to become involved in her Presidential initiative to support medical-legal partnerships in the VA hospitals and clinics. The Section made a donation to the fund to start this Initiative. I sent out a challenge to our leadership to also give personally in memory or in honor of a family member or close friend who had served our Country. The response was overwhelming and the stories of each person involved and the sacrifices they made for our freedom were priceless.
Our Publications Committee has been hard at work looking for innovative ways to provide content to our members. Our authors continue to be recognized for their great work. For the past three years one of our articles published in the Health Lawyer has received the coveted Burton Award, which is part of the Library of Congress. The breadth and depth of our articles demonstrate the scholarship produced from our volunteers. We can’t thank you enough for your contributions.
Leaders, we have four months left in this Bar Year to finish the great work you have begun. My challenge to you is to Finish Strong. Look for ways to be innovative in providing value to our members. Work together with each other, with our MOU partners, our Sponsors and the other Sections of the ABA. Through collaboration we are stronger and learn more from each other. Thank you for your commitment and dedication to the mission of the Health Law Section. I am honored to be your Chair.
P.S. Mississippi fact and quote: The Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs made it to the national championship on April 2nd. In order to get to the final game, they had to defeat UConn and end UConn’s 111 game winning streak. They did it with a buzzer beater in overtime by “Itty Bitty” - Morgan William - their 5’5” point guard. On winning the game, Morgan said “I saw the opportunity and I took the shot.” Fearless! That win made this Ole Miss Rebel fan almost want to ring a cowbell. Thanks, Lady Bulldogs, you made us all proud.