August 2013 Volume 9 Number 12

Section Chair's Column: Afterglow

By David L. Douglass, Sheppard Mullin, Washington, DC

AuthorI write my final Chair’s Column still basking in the afterglow of our first Section-wide leadership training meeting, in Denver. It was energizing to watch experienced health lawyers and our associated professionals come together to contribute their expertise, energy and talents to growing the Section and enhancing our ability to serve our members. The meeting epitomized the qualities that characterize the Section. Over the years, but this year especially, I have experienced first-hand the privilege and pleasure of working with talented, dedicated and passionate professionals to advance our profession, shape health law and policy, educate the public and serve our members. I have witnessed and admired the energy, insight and effort that our members and leaders, representing every segment of the healthcare industry, bring to the challenges presented by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s transformation of our healthcare reimbursement system. No less inspiring has been watching these busy professionals devote that same energy and passion to making the Health Law Section stronger and to meeting the diverse needs of our growing membership. The leadership meeting was indeed a fitting capstone to a rewarding, productive and fun year.

Our members and leaders have had an active and fast-paced year and the Section has certainly reaped the fruits of their labors. The creativity and hard work of our membership committee has produced an unprecedented increase in membership. We responded to a call to address the healthcare needs of our veterans by sponsoring a Resolution in the ABA House of Delegates that upon adoption will enable us to advocate on behalf of the mental health needs of our returning service men and women. We strengthened relationships with the Chicago Medical Society, continuing our partnership with it on the Physicians Issues Conference in June and publishing legal articles in Chicago Medicine magazine, and with the American Medical Association jointly presenting a webinar addressing issues that concern physician contracting. We organized a new ABA National Institute, the ABA National False Claims Act and Qui Tam Trial Institute. It was a great success, and plans are already underway for the next one. We have fully embraced the social media revolution to give our members more options for staying in touch with us. Don’t believe me? Check us out on Facebook and Twitter. (Oh, and last, because it is definitely least, at our Emerging Issues Conference I played my first round of golf!) And even with all of these accomplishments, I am confident that the best is still to come.

We have exciting new publications in the pipeline. Our newest groups, Nursing and Allied Healthcare Professionals, In-house Counsel and Government Attorneys, are firmly established and based on the discussions at the leadership meeting are poised to take off. The opening of the health insurance exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will pose many new questions and challenges, only some of which can we now foresee. The Section will be actively involved in educating our members, policy-makers and the public about the Health Insurance exchanges. As we move into the era of healthcare reform, the Health Law Section will no doubt be at the forefront of the legal and policy debate in fulfillment of our mission to enhance the practice of health lawyers and improve the understanding and development of health laws.

I look forward to this coming year with great enthusiasm as I am confident that under the guidance of our new leadership, the Section will further strengthen the services we provide to our members and become an even more influential voice in shaping health law and policy. Our incoming Chair, the Honorable Kathleen Scully-Hayes, Chief Deputy Administrative Law Judge for the Social Security Administration, is the first judge to Chair our Section. Prior to becoming an ALJ she was with the Office of General Counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services. She brings a wealth of experience in health law and the Section as well the perspective of a career government attorney. Words are inadequate to express my admiration for her leadership, my appreciation for the unwavering support she has given me this year and my deep gratitude for her friendship. Kathye will have, as I did, the support and insight of accomplished and experience Council officers, Chair-Elect Michael E. Clark, Vice-Chair Bill Horton, Budget Officer Hien McCombs and our newest officer, Secretary Joyce Hall, who has already distinguished herself by the quality and breadth of her commitment to the Section.

Of course, as our leaders know well, the true hard work of the Section is performed by our exceptional and wonderful staff. Wanda Workman, our Section Director, is an accomplished professional who embraces and meets new challenges through her exceptional managerial skills, deep experience, and unfailingly upbeat attitude. Wanda’s can-do spirit was key to many of the Section’s most important accomplishments this year. Simeon Carson, our Associate Director, has been the backbone of the section for many years. He possesses the rare gift of being able to exert quiet leadership. He moves the Section and its leaders steadily forward in an unassuming yet effective manner. I have observed over the years that Simeon always seems to have the answer or solution or idea you need even before you knew you needed it. In the comparatively short time that Jason Billups has been our Administrative Assistant he has proven himself to be an effective, dedicated and personable professional. He fits right into the ethos established by Wanda and Simeon. Our newest staff members, Nancy Voegtle, our new Senior Meeting Planner, and Naomi Shicly, our new Program Specialist are experienced and already contributing to the Section. We are pleased to have them on board. Collectively, our Staff routinely achieves amazing results. I have found there is nothing they cannot do – except perhaps say no. I thank all of them personally, especially Wanda and Simeon, for guiding and supporting me this year.

There are many benefits to Section membership (as I say at every opportunity) but truth be told the best part of Section involvement is the friendships you form. Serving as Chair was far more demanding that I anticipated but far more rewarding, as well. When you get right down to it, the position demands that you spend a lot of time with fascinating, funny, caring, talented men and women collaborating to advance the cause of a mission-driven organization. I don’t know that it can get any better than that. Certainly, for me, this year as Section Chair could not have been any better. I thank all of you who made it possible.

The ABA Health eSource is distributed automatically to members of the ABA Health Law Section . Please feel free to forward it! Non-members may also sign up to receive the ABA Health eSource.