By Linda A. Baumann, Arent Fox LLP, Washington, DC
Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the efforts of the Health Law Section and our ongoing efforts to build awareness about breast cancer. I also want to bring your attention to the difference the Section makes in the lives of women all across this country who suffer from this life-threatening disease. Finally, I would like to encourage all interested Section members to participate in our Breast Cancer Task Force (BCTF), an incredibly satisfying pro bono project. I have highlighted various volunteer opportunities below.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2010 approximately 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and nearly 40,000 will die from the disease. Although these numbers are sobering, there is hope. More than 2.5 million women in the United States have beaten breast cancer or are currently under treatment for it. That’s where the ABA Health Law Section’s Breast Cancer Task Force makes a difference.
The Breast Cancer Task Force
Since 2008, the Section has administered the BCTF, a project that originated with the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession in 1998. It is one of our signature pro bono projects, and I was honored to serve as the initial Chair of the Task Force for several years. At the present time, it has over 70 active members who come from various ABA sections.
Training Lawyers to Advocate for Breast Cancer Patients
Working frequently with local, state and women’s bar associations, as well as the Cancer Legal Resource Center, based at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, CA, the Task Force has focused on providing Training Workshops to hundreds of lawyers who volunteer to advocate on behalf of women with breast cancer in connection with the legal issues they face as a result of their condition and/or treatment. The Workshops have been held across the country, often in conjunction with Section meetings. During the 2009-2010 bar year, Workshops were offered in Manchester, NH; Indianapolis, IN; Phoenix, AZ; Austin, TX and San Francisco, CA. This Bar year, we have already held a program in Albuquerque, NM, and planning is underway for additional Workshops in Chicago, IL; New Orleans, LA; Ann Arbor, MI; Honolulu, HI, Los Angeles, CA, and elsewhere.
The training is based on an extensive Advocacy Guide which is available on the BCTF website that covers topics from insurance coverage issues to ERISA, employment issues and family law. The Advocacy Guide is currently in the process of being updated, particularly in light of the numerous changes that have resulted from the healthcare reform and other legislation passed earlier this year.
In 2009, the Task Force launched the Breast Cancer Legal Advocacy Workshop Toolkit, designed to provide sponsoring organizations with detailed guidance on how to organize and conduct a Training Workshop in their community. The Toolkit is an online practical guide that covers the full range of issues an organization is likely to confront in developing a Workshop, including sections on which substantive topics to cover, how to secure CLE credit, and how to successfully market the program to increase participation, among many others. If you are involved with any organization that might be interested in hosting a Workshop, the Toolkit will explain and greatly facilitate the process.
The BCTF’s latest project has been to collect stories from attorneys who survived breast cancer (and their family members) in order to help fellow attorneys who are themselves dealing with breast cancer. As noted on the webpage:
Practicing attorneys are often measured by their competence, stamina, competitive edge and willingness to make personal sacrifices not seen in other professions. These pressures create unique challenges for attorneys fighting breast cancer and raise common concerns among lawyers about whether and when to disclose a diagnosis to one’s employer, the court and/or clients; how much or how little to work during treatment; if and how colleagues and clients will judge the attorney’s competence and ability to practice law during treatment, among many other issues.
The “Survivor Stories” on the BCTF website are an incredibly moving and inspiring collection of stories that is constantly being expanded. Please let us know if you or someone you know is interested in contributing to this project.
SOC Meritorious Service Award
The Section’s efforts on behalf of breast cancer advocacy were recognized this year when it won the prestigious Section Officers Conference (SOC) Meritorious Service Award. A special thank you to Chair Shelley K. Hubner and Executive Committee members Patricia M. Kosich, Alyson D. Meiselman, Hilary B. Weckstein, and Priscilla D. Keith for shepherding the Task Force this past year, and to Allison Bungardas and Jennifer Rangel, the newest members of the Executive Committee. I’d also like to recognize the innumerable contributions of past Associate Director Sena Leach who helped guide the work of the BCTF for several years. Many more exciting initiatives are planned for this coming year. I also would like to thank all of the members of the BCTF itself. There are too many to list them here individually but they have made an incredible, and very tangible, difference in the lives of those who suffer from breast cancer.
Join the Task Force
Any ABA member who is interested, inside or outside the Health Law Section, should consider participating in this outstanding pro bono activity. It has been one of the most rewarding Section activities I have worked on, and any ABA member can join. For more information on the Breast Cancer Task Force and its projects, please contact Simeon Carson, Associate Director, at (312) 988-5824 or Simeon.Carson@americanbar.org.
Washington Healthcare Summit
You should have received an email with the agenda for the upcoming Washington Healthcare Summit (Dec. 6-7, 2010). Co-chairs Kirk Nahra and David Douglass and the Planning Committee have done a phenomenal job putting together an exciting program.As the first major conference that will occur after the mid-term elections, which likely will have a significant impact on healthcare reform legislation and implementation, the Summit will provide a unique and unparalleled opportunity for you to hear directly from numerous key government officials (including leaders from CMS, the OIG, FDA, DOJ, FTC, IRS, DOL and the Hill) and other leading policymakers about how reform will affect the future of healthcare and your practice. Based on its track record, numerous people signed up for the Summit before the agenda was even finalized. Be sure to sign up soon to save yourself a space.
New HLS Section Director
As most of you know, Jill Peña, our superb Section Director, has been promoted to the higher echelons of ABA leadership. We have benefited tremendously from her many invaluable contributions to the Section over the past 12 years and will miss her guidance, leadership and friendship. However, I am delighted to announce that we have a terrific new Section Director, Wanda Workman, who will be starting with us on Nov. 1, 2010. Wanda comes to us from the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Sections where she served as Associate Director. Wanda can be reached at Wanda.Workman@americanbar.org.
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