Chair's Column: Coming Of Age
by Andrew J. Demetriou, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Los Angeles, CA
The Health Law Section has turned twelve years old with the beginning of this current ABA year and I wanted to start this year's Chair's Columns with a look back to the Section's early days and a look toward the future of our Section. When E. Paul Herrington presided over the newly chartered Section in 1996, he was essentially writing on a white board. The Section Officers and Council were 12 individuals (I choose to find something apostolic about that number) recruited from the membership of the Forum on Health Law. This remarkable group included seven future Chairs of the Section, in addition to Paul and Larry Manson, who was the last Chair of the Forum. The Section had an existing publication, The Health Lawyer, and produced its fifth monograph in June, 1997, entitled "Achieving Quality in Managed Care: The Role of Law." Programs were pretty much arranged based on who among the Council and Officers was available to speak. There were no Committees, Interest Groups were still in the future, and the Section functioned based on strong personal relationships among its leaders and a network of like-minded health lawyers throughout the United States.
In the intervening years, the small nucleus of 1996 has grown into a vibrant organization. One measure of the complexity of our current activities is that during my Chair-Elect Year I was responsible for the appointment of approximately 200 Committee members, Interest Group Leaders and Liaisons, a process that is still being completed as I write these words. The Section now has a permanent staff of four, and we plan to add a fifth staff member, dedicated exclusively to programs, during the year. Our former Chairs have gone on to have impact within the greater ABA, as members of the Board of Governors, Chair of the Section Officers Conference and distinguished members of the House of Delegates. Our current and former Officers and Council members have assumed leadership roles in ABA and Section Officers Conference Committees and continue to reflect credit on the Section and raise our visibility. In a happy coincidence of fate, Paul Herrington has been designated as our liaison from the Board of Governors for this year, and we are delighted to have him back in Section leadership.
We have three well-established live programs, the Washington Healthcare Summit in December of this year, the Emerging Issues in Healthcare Conference, to be held in San Diego in February 2008, and the Physician Law Conference in Chicago next June. I hope you will be able to join us at one or more of these exceptional gatherings of leaders from the private bar, government and academia. Our Programs Committee, under the stewardship of Bill Horton, will also produce over 50 other educational teleconferences and live programs this year, through ABA-CLE and in conjunction with other Sections of the ABA. Our programs receive consistently high marks for substance, quality of presentation and ambience, a tribute the welcoming nature of our Section members. You have by now received a notice concerning an upcoming program on the new Stark III regulations and I hope you will be able to participate in this very timely teleconference, featuring an outstanding faculty.
BNA Books will soon be publishing our fourth treatise, "Pharmaceutical Law: Regulation of Research, Development, and Marketing," edited by our Publications Chair Michael E. Clark. This is a significant addition to the healthcare literature, covering a range of subjects that heretofore has not available in a single text. We are proud to have this work join our previous treatises on Fraud and Abuse, E-Health, and Managed Care Litigation as cornerstone volumes useful to our members as well as scholars and individuals involved in the development of public policy. The Health Lawyer continues, in its 19th year of publication, to provide deep insights into issues of interest to our members and ABA Health eSource, its electronic cousin, provides topical coverage of current events of importance to healthcare lawyers. In this issue of eSource, look for an article concerning the Section's recent meeting in Berlin, at which we discussed international public health issues as well as the changing landscape of the German healthcare system.
During this past year the Section Officers and Council created a Task Force on Section Organization to evaluate the existing Committees, Interest Groups and other Section bodies and make recommendations for changes to assure that they remain accountable and responsive to the needs of our membership and our role as a Section. The Task Force provided some excellent recommendations, including the addition of a 12th Interest Group, Physician Issues, which has been approved and is Co-Chaired by Bill Hopkins and Tom Curtis. For those whose practice involves the representation of physicians, I encourage you to join this new Interest Group. The Council has authorized the creation of some new Committees to encourage greater involvement by government lawyers in the Section, address our relations with the larger ABA, and explore new avenues of sponsorship of Section activities, so that we can devote additional resources to member services. We are also organizing a new Committee to respond to requests from the media for comments on health law developments and seeking volunteers from our membership to staff this Committee. Please contact me or our Section Director, Jill Pena if you have an interest in this important work.
I have become convinced that our Section should play a leading role in addressing the legal and policy issues related to ensuring access to healthcare for all Americans. Policy ideas have emerged, and will continue to emerge, from the Presidential candidates, the Congress, state Governors and legislators and an array of organizations with interests in the expansion of coverage of health benefits and government programs. Even though I do not expect a major federal initiative in this area to be enacted during the current election cycle, we need to have a dedicated group of health lawyers within our Section, reflecting broad expertise in public health, managed care and government programs, that is prepared to analyze emerging legislation and policy initiatives, provide useful scholarship for our members and play a role, where appropriate, in shaping ABA and federal policy. We are in the early stages of organizing this important Task Force, drawing from our Interest Groups, but I would encourage all Section members who care about the issues of access and coverage to volunteer to participate in this important Section project.
We also will continue to explore the dimensions of international healthcare law. Under the direction of our Immediate Past Chair, Paul DeMuro, we have established linkages with the International Bar Association and the World Health Organization. I have asked Paul to advise me regularly on projects we might undertake in partnership with lawyers from around the world to address areas of mutual interest and share experiences. Those members who share Paul's passion for these topics should contact him and offer your help.
Our Section is committed to public service as well as member service and I believe we have made important strides in our work on public health issues with the Centers for Disease Control, the ABA's Katrina Task Force and the ABA Disaster Preparedness Committee. Under the leadership of Linda Baumann, we have joined forces with the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession in the ABA Breast Cancer Task Force to develop materials and provide educational seminars for lawyers who represent and advocate for victims of breast cancer. This has been a highly successful outreach effort, and we anticipate expanding our role in the Task Force during the coming year.
Isaac Newton famously remarked to Robert Hooke that if he was able see further it was because he was standing on the shoulders of giants. Each of my extraordinary predecessors as Chair of the Section has contributed mightily to what we are today and I get the privilege of leading the Section from an enviable perch at the summit of their good work. I look forward to an exciting and challenging year of growth for the Section and invite you to become active in one or more of our projects.